Around 71 per cent of school children in West Bengal didn’t have access to online education, and the number of students in child labour doubled in the May-July lockdown period, shows a survey.
The survey – conducted by rights groups West Bengal Right to Education Forum (RTE Forum) and Campaign against Child Labour (CACL) — covers 2,154 children across 19 districts of West Bengal.
Seventeen per cent of the surveyed children made do with on one or two meals a day, and 11 per cent of the sick could not access any medical treatment.
Ananya Chakraborty, Chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said, “I haven’t gone through the report yet. Once I get the reports only then I will be able to comment on it.”
“The purpose of this rapid assessment was to understand infringement child rights over the last few months so that the government can take proper action,” said one of the survey team members.
Only 21.5 per cent of children from lower classes had access to online education at the pre-primary and primary level while the precentage for those from higher socio-economic background stood at 53.2 per cent at the higher secondary level.
The report also shows that 37.5 per cent of the school-going disabled children can access digital/online education. In terms of food security, only 57 per cent of the children got three meals a day.
Ten per cent of the children in the two-six years age group did not receive takeaway supplementary nutrition from Anganwadi Centres. Every four of 10 children in Class 1-8 did not get mid-day meal. Families of 14 per cent of the surveyed children did not get free ration from the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS), while another 4.41 per cent were devoid of any free ration.
Minister of State for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Sashi Panja said the state was doing its best to ensure delivery of foodgrains to households.
“As far as mid-day meal is concerned, our department is ensuring delivery of foodgrains at the doorstep in the Covid-19 times. We are distributing dry ration in one go. For example, how much mid-day meal a student gets in a month is calculated and then it is delivered by workers and helpers of centres (Integrated Child Development Services). We regularly check records and we have reached out to almost all,” Panja said.
“At least Bengal’s data is better than the national data. Across India, only 14 per cent of the school children have been able to continue their education,” said Prabir Basu, Joint Convener of RTE Forum (Campaign).
“The end result of the report is very disturbing, I would say practically the scenario is even worse. The survey has been done with children residing in the areas with presence of organisations to support them… We would like to bring it to the notice of the state government so that the policy makers can strategise to improve the situation,” said Basu.
RTE is a civil society platform advocating enforcement of the Right to Education. CACL, formed in 1993, is spread across 18 states.