IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON RIGHT TO EDUCATION

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Author: Farheen Intakhab

Introduction to the Current Status of Education System

As we all know that Covid-19 has impacted all of us and has shaken the whole world with its immense effect on the lives of people. Whether economically, socially, politically, or legally.  Now here as we stand strong even after 4 months of this pandemic, we can look at it positively or negatively. Surely talking about our topic of how Covid-19 has impacted our education system, I would say in both negative and positive way. First, let me tell you why I think it has positively impacted us is if we look back at our education system some few months back or at the beginning of this year we would have never imagined exploring the non-physical or the virtual side of this whole education system. Digitalization has brought a huge difference in our education system, breaking all the barriers of time and distance. We might have achieved an easier way and a resourced way for our education system but at the cost of efficiency and physical engagement among students and teachers and quality education cannot be neglected.

Political Status of Different Government and Education System

The topic that needs to be brought to light is how Most of the governments have temporarily closed the education institutions to contain and curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. In India too, the government has closed nationwide all the educational institutes, as a consequence of which, all the learner students ranging from school going to the postgraduates are highly affected. This nationwide closure is affecting 91% of the total student population. The UNESCO report estimates that the coronavirus pandemic will impact 2980 million students in 22 countries[1]. And it estimates that about 32 cores people are already affected in India. It has brought the hitherto peripheral issue of digital education to the center stage. And this will soon be included in mainstream education, enabling the population spread across the wider geographical area to take advantage of the education system. Yes while discussing digital education, we cannot ignore the pact and differences between the rural and the urban population. The feasibility and connectivity and affordability are some of the main questions that would arise. India surely has to go along with digitizing the education system. Another big issue faced by the students is the atmosphere for studying. There are many distractions like gaming or social media[2].

Facts and Cases during this Lockdown for Right to Education

In Hindustan times, there was a report that said that despite government orders, online studying still a struggle for the economically weaker session. It talks about a family that comes under the economically weaker session of society as they have an annual earning which is less than 1 lakhs. The student Malkeet Singh, a 12-year-old, studying in class 6th from a private school in west Delhi cannot afford a smartphone. Another student Laxman, a resident of Nangloi, who works as a carpenter said that his family has no means of getting a Smartphone. Families with multiple kids have their share of struggle as they can’t afford to buy smartphones for every single child as the timings for their classes are almost the same. There have been constant delays in the announcement of results or taking of the entrance exams. This year the students who had to turn up for the entrance exams of CLAT, JEE Mains, or whether they are for professional studies like CA or CS. In the case, Unni Krishnan, J.P. and Ors. vs. State of Andhra Pradesh[3], Malcolm X had rightly stated that Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow, belongs to those who prepare for it today. Amongst some of the first cases to come up for making education as part of fundamental rights are Mohini Jain vs. State of Karnataka & Ors.[4] And therefore, is concomitant to the fundamental rights enshrined under Part III of the Constitution. From 1 April 2010, the Right to Education was read into the Constitution of India as a fundamental right available to all children in the age group 6-14 years. Article 21(A)[5] of the Constitution of India requires every State to provide free and compulsory education to such children in a manner as the State, by Law, may determine. Now the Directive Principles, Article 51(A) (k)[6] casts a duty upon every citizen of India, who is a parent or guardian, to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the ages 6-14. The Parliament has instituted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) to give free and obligatory education to youngsters between the ages 6-14[7]  The Act is a statutory acknowledgment of education as a basic right and indicates minimum norms in elementary schools. A few private schools had challenged the sacred legitimacy of the Act (Society for Un-aided Private Schools). In the care of,  Rajasthan Vs. Union of India[8], the primary challenge being to the command to private schools to fill 25% seats in Class I with children from fragile and impeded groups, as an unreasonable restriction on their right to carry on trade or business under Article 19(1)(g). The Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of the Act, holding that Article 19(6) grants the State to impose sensible limitations and that the 25% reservation commitment on private unaided schools is a reasonable restriction. It was held that the object of the 2009 Act is to remove the barriers faced by a child who seeks admission to Class I and not to restrict the freedom under Article 19(1) (g). The constitutional commitment of the State to accommodate free and mandatory education to the predefined category of children is co-broad with the fundamental right ensured under Article 19(1) (g) to establish an educational institution.

Right to Education

Free and mandatory education to all children of India in the 6 to 14 age group. 25 % bookings for economically hindered communities in admission to Class I in all private schools are to be done. Improvement in the quality of education is important. The Supreme Court urged the constitutional legitimacy of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, on April 12, 2012, and coordinated every school, including privately-run ones, to give promptly free education to students from socially and economically backward classes from class-I till they reach the age of 14 years. In many regards, this can be contrasted with the NREGA, which tries to guarantee the privilege to the life of the poor in this era of jobless growth.

Questions rose due to COVID-19

The first and the foremost question that plays a principal role during this covid19’ is, does the right to education plays the same role as earlier, or is it now a case of mere words for the majority of people except the upper class. Another primary question is that where is the distinction between the people who pay for the education and people who don’t pay for the education. There is a price tag inserted for the education. Instantaneously it is presumed that every citizen in India would be well aware of Digital Education.  Now a smartphone, data plan, internet connection, and the consciousness to know the working of the various mobile app has become a necessity to prevail education.

A very major topic that needs to be addressed here is that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution clause (A) provides not just the right to education as a fundamental right. But for many families, it is a hope for a superior future. Its motive was also a way for getting a one-time meal or providing basic facilities like toilets in many villages or it was a system to exhibit a better way of living. It holds a whole different prospect for families who are sending their first generation to the school[9]. The mid-day meal scheme which was an important part of the people below the poverty line is immensely affected. Families, who use to send their children to school because of the services and utilities that are providing a one-time meal, have come to a standstill.

This is one thing for the people who don’t have to pay for education. But what about the people who have to pay for their education? Right now hardships and especially financial crises are faced by countries whether it is a developed nation or under-developed nation. Economic crises or financial crises have affected a large part of educationally backward classes along with a large part of middle-class families also. In India, the majority of people come under the category of middle-class families. During these situations where the education institute has saved a lot of their resources, where the schools and colleges are closed for the last 5 months and could be still closed for the next few more months, in this case, the conduct of all the educational institutes have shown an insensitive and care-free approach towards the students. The demands for a regular fee structure that used to prevail continue. Understanding their responsibilities to pay salaries to the teachers and all the faculty members and all expenditures availed for the maintenance is reasonable to be demanded. But very valid questions that raise are that don’t these institutes have the responsibility towards the students and their families? These situations are faced by us together. The question is not for them to waive off the whole fee structure but the question is for them to be more sensitive and think from everyone’s prospect and situation, providing a reasonable and reduced fee structure. Where students are the major part of the education system, their needs and necessities should be a matter of concern for these educational institutes.

Conclusion

Covid-19 has impacted the right to education in many aspects, commenced from the positive impacts we went into the negative aspect. We saw how this could be a revolution in the education system but there are some hurdles and loopholes. There could be a long way ahead on this journey. In end, we saw the problems that are currently faced by the students from all over the country. There are many techniques for dealing with these problems. Raising our voices for these issues and raising awareness among people could be a big step in the right to the education system and its fundamental application for the whole country.


[1] UNESCO reports for 2020

[2] Article 19(1) (g), Article 19(6), freedom of speech and expression, https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/impact-of-covid-19-on-education-system-in-india/.

[3] Unni Krishnan, J.P. and Ors. Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors. MANU/SC/0333/1993

[4] Mohini Jain Vs. State of Karnataka & Ors (MANU/SC/0357/1992) 

[5] Article 21(A) of the Constitution of India (Right to Education under Freedom of Life and Liberty)

[6] Article 51(A) (k) of the Constitution of India.

[7] Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act)

[8] Rajasthan Vs. Union of India ,  AIR 2012 SC 3445

[9]Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, on April 12, 2012

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