Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan has warned that any further delay in reopening schools and getting children back up to speed with their education could haunt the country for decades to come.
“Imagine the quality of lessons they’ve had over a year and a half. The problem isn’t just that they are not keeping up, but that they’re forgetting,” Rajan told The Quint Group Co-Founder Raghav Bahl in an interview. “If you’ve been out of school of a year and half, you’re probably three years behind at the time you go back.”
Schools in India have remained shut since the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020. Any discussions around reopening earlier this year were thwarted by a deadly second wave of the pandemic. According to the UNICEF, closure of schools has impacted nearly 25 crore children across the country.
With online classes becoming commonplace, Rajan pointed towards the existing digital divide as a number of children were unable to get access due to lack of devices or internet.
“The poorer kids have no access to online devices. Maybe a phone if they’re lucky,” he said. “If these divides increase, think of kids who already had an awful education because of the quality of schools they went to, but now they are three or four years behind. And there’s no remedial measure to bring them back to speed, so they fall further behind and they drop out.”
That said, several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, have started to partially reopen schools as cases of Covid-19 slow in the country.
But Rajan said getting them just back to school isn’t enough. Schools will need to put in extra effort to help students make up for the lost ground over the past year and half.
“If you have not brought this kids back up to speed in class and you just treat it business as usual, the schools open, kids come back to classes and nothing really happens, well then you’ve got a lost generation of kids,” he said. “That lost generation isn’t going to go anywhere, it is going to be there with you for the next 60 years. How do you deal with that?”
The former RBI governor urged central and state governments to loosen their purse strings and spend on improving the health and education scenarios in the country. “You have to spend where you have to spend. You risk being penny-wise and pound foolish on issues like education.”
Watch | Raghuram Rajan’s full interview with The Quint Group’s Raghav Bahl.