Second year of pandemic: No devices, millions of students stay offline

Bihar has counted 14 million children without access to digital devices. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir have reported that nearly 70% children have no access to devices while Jharkhand and Karnataka has over 3 million children without device access, as per data shared this week by the Union education ministry with the Parliamentary standing committee on Education, Women & Children, Youth & Sports.

Equally worrying is the number of children who are out of school.

Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have reported over 0.55 m children who are out of school each while Rajasthan has identified over 1.8 lakh such children, as per data shared at the June 21 meeting.

The data was shared as part of the ministry’s response on efforts at “bridging the learning gap caused due to the school lockdown”, ET has learnt.

The data on the digital divide and school drop out rate comes amid a second consecutive academic session that had to be started via the online mode across states and schools.

While all states are yet to submit their final data for Covid-19 documentation being done by the Union education ministry, the picture so far has been deeply worrying.

No Devices, Millions of Students Stay Offline

Assam, Jharkhand and Karnataka have identified that 31 lakh, 32.5 lakh and 31.3 lakh students, respectively, have no access to devices. The figure is a staggering 1.4 crore for Bihar. Odisha has counted 15 lakh such students while Haryana has identified 10 lakh students without devices.

Madhya Pradesh and J&K have said 70% of students have no access to devices while Maharashtra and Gujarat have cited 69% and 40% figures respectively. Chhattisgarh has reported 28.2% students without access to digital devices. While Uttarakhand has reported 2.1 lakh such students, the figure is at 1.8 lakh for Telangana and 96,074 for Andhra Pradesh.

In terms of aspirational districts, Wayanad in Kerala (Rahul Gandhi’s constituency) has the highest percentage of access to digital devices at 100% followed by Kadapa (99%) district in Andhra Pradesh. Rayagada (47%) district of Odisha has the lowest percentage of students who access any mode of digital education.

On the other end of the spectrum are Kerala and Rajasthan –– in both states all students have access to a device. Data is not yet received for Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Delhi, Goa and most of the northeastern states.

The number of children out of school —estimated to have increased amid the pandemic forced shutdown of physical schooling –– tells another tale. UP has identified 5.5 lakh children who are out of school while Jharkhand’s count is 6.2 lakh. Rajasthan’s estimates 1.8 lakh such children. Assam and Bihar have so far counted 86,094 and 68,256 children respectively. The overall drop out rate was highest in Odisha at 22.5. Ladakh was at 18.3 while Nagaland is at 16.5.

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