Hello and welcome to Mind the Gap, a newsletter that adds perspective to the gender developments of the week.
As schools tentatively return to physical classes, the big questions are: How much learning has been lost? (HT PHOTO)
THE BIG STORY
Back to school
Do girls face a disproportionate impact, given the existing gender gaps? What happens to them when education ends? (Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)
When K, the younger daughter of parents who work as household help near Solan, Himachal Pradesh, enrolled in 2019 to do her Bachelor of Arts (General) through the distance-learning programme of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), an open university, the pandemic that brought the world to a standstill was still unknown.
She attended three political science classes before India went into lockdown. A year later she cleared the first year on the basis of her assignments. But when the second wave hit, her computer screen went blank: No classes. No study material. No assignments. No communication. She wrote to IGNOU in July to find out what was going on. The reply came within a few days: Go to your study centre in Solan (7 km from home), check out the Facebook page, and wait for updates. She went and found nothing there. On September 1, online classes began, but were conducted in a language unfamiliar to her, she says. On October 27, she received a message that the exams would be held in January 2022.
As schools tentatively return to physical classes, the big questions are: How much learning has been lost? Do girls face a disproportionate impact, given the existing gender gaps? What happens to them when education ends?
Many of the faultlines in learning outcomes, as documented by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), predate Covid-19. Even before the pandemic, only 20.9% of class 3 students in government schools and 40.6% in private schools could read a class 2 text. With schools shut for 18 months, how would these already weak foundational skills be affected?
The simple answer: We don’t know. There is no consolidated data on the number of children who left school since March 2020, when Covid-19 began its insidious spread. There is no data that tells us whether more girls than boys dropped out. But bits and pieces are emerging. In June 2021, the ministry of education estimated that 3.5 million children are out of school, including those who had dropped out during the pandemic.
Another survey of 1,400 children in underprivileged households across 16 states and Union Territories conducted in August by a team led by economist Jean Dreze, found that only 8% of children in rural households attended regular online classes. Further, 37% were not studying at all, and only half were able to read more than a few words. The indicators were far worse for children from Dalit, Adivasi and underprivileged communities, the study found.
How do you ensure learning for children from families who’ve had low education and lack resources such as smartphones? (HT PHOTO)
The “ASER Wave 1 2020” survey of 52,227 rural households conducted by phone in September 2020 found a shift of students across all grades from private to government schools. With schools closed, children were relying on resources — parents, technology, and study material — available at home. Children with parents who didn’t study beyond primary school relied on elder siblings. Only a third of enrolled students received learning materials or activities from their teachers during the week preceding the survey. But only 18.3% of government school students, 28.7% of children in private schools, watched videos or other pre-recorded content online.
What happens to girls when they stop going to school? Activists say they are either pulled into household work or forced into marriage. “A bright and motivated girl can fight, but my real worry is about girls in the seventh or eighth grade who might not be that motivated to study,” says Rukmini Banerjee, CEO of Pratham who just won the 2021 Yidan Prize for education development, the world’s highest education accolade.
The real impact of Covid-19 on education is not visible. “There are undercurrents which we can only surmise,” says Banerjee. The challenges are many. How do you ensure a heterogeneous classroom, given the wide gaps in learning during the past 18 months? How do you monitor who goes back to school and who
And how do you ensure learning for children from families who’ve had low education and lack resources such as smartphones?
“Student enrolment is no longer a good indicator. The more important question is, ‘Are they attending school and are they attending regularly?’” asks Banerjee.
The real impact of Covid-19 on education is not visible (Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)
Sex ratio: Delhi’s sex ratio at birth for 2020 is 933 females for every 1,000 males, up from 920 in 2019, but still lower than 1,004 recorded in 2018. Haryana declined from 922 in 2020 to 906 as of September 2021. Uttarakhand has the country’s worst sex ratio at 840, according to Niti Aayog. Arunachal Pradesh has the country’s best sex ratio at 1,085
DID YOU ASK WHETHER THE GIRL WAS A
MINOR OR A MAJOR? IF THE GIRL WAS A
MAJOR, THEN WOULD IT BE HER WISH OR HER
PARENTS’ WISH THAT WOULD PREVAIL?
These words are Justice Mukta Gupta’s of the Delhi High Court who came down hard on Uttar Pradesh Police for arresting the father and brother of a man from Delhi after he married a woman against her family’s wishes.
Stories you might have missed
Opened doors: A third of the candidates, or 178,000, who will appear for the National Defence Academy exams on November 14 are women, reports Deeksha Bhardwaj. On August 18, the Supreme Court in a landmark order opened the doors of the academy to women.
Personal autonomy: Live-in relationships are a part and parcel of life and should be viewed through the lens of personal autonomy rather than societal morality, observed the Allahabad High Court. Read Jitendra Sarin’s report here.
Ethics: In a separate ruling, Justice Rahul Chaturvedi of the same high court in Allahabad observed that consensual sex with a major is not an offence but is “unethical, immoral and against established Indian norms.” Justice Rahul Chaturvedi made the observations while rejecting a bail application of a gang rape accused, reports Jitendra Sarin.
Justice Chaturvedi said that it was the duty of the man, claiming to be the boyfriend of a minor girl, to protect his girlfriend when she was being sexually harassed by the other co-accused. “The moment the applicant submits that the victim is his beloved, it was his binding duty to protect the dignity, honour and reputation of his girlfriend. If a girl is [a] major one, then to have sex with her consent is not an offence, but certainly, it is unethical and immoral and also not in consonance with the established social norms of the Indian society,” observed the court.
Women’s participation: The National Human Rights Commission has asked the government to increase women’s participation at international forums and events relating to peace negotiations, global security, foreign trade and the climate crisis. Read Neeraj Chauhan’s story here.
WOMEN OF THE WORLD
Cuomo charged: After around a dozen women accused Andrew Cuomo, then the governor of New York, of sexual harassment, Cuomo — who resigned in August — has now been formally charged by a city court for groping a female aide “for the purposes of degrading and satisfying his sexual desires”. Cuomo will have to appear in court on November 17.
Andrew Cuomo (REUTERS)
Girls night in: Thousands of women stayed away from bars and pubs in nearly 50 locations across the United Kingdom on the night of October 27 calling for tougher measures on drink spiking and spiking by injection.
Defending Canada: Of Tamil-Punjabi heritage, Anita Anand has been appointed Canada’s minister of national defence, only the second woman to hold the post since Kim Campbell in the 1990s reports Anirudh Bhattacharyya. She replaced Harjit Sajjan after he was criticised for the institutional sexual misconduct crisis that erupted in the Canadian armed forces under his watch.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary May Simon pose with Minister of National Defence Anita Anand (REUTERS)
That’s it for this week. If you have a tip or information on gender-related developments that you would like to share write to me at: email@example.com
Namita Bhandare writes on gender
The views expressed are personal
Marika Gabriel contributed to the making of this page.