How to reach students from marginalized communities?

How to reach students from marginalized communities post COVID?

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Although schools are now fully operational following the devastating pandemic, the impact can still be felt across the country. Among the kids most affected by the pandemic are ones from the marginalized communities.

Here we will learn what sorts of challenges girls and specially-abled children are facing post Covid and the possible solutions to improve the situation.

Challenges faced by marginalized girls:

  • Girls from poor backgrounds are at greater risk of dropping out due to their parents not being able to afford school fees 

Burdens of domestic work and childcare reduced girls’ ability to study– According to Young Lives Research, in India, 67% of the girls were engaged in household work during the lockdown, compared to 38% of boys doing the same.

redistribution of household and caring responsibilities among 19-year-olds, by gender

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  • Risk of worsening mental health: 19 year old girls whose education had been interrupted were nearly three times more likely to experience anxiety and twice as likely to report feelings of depression than those in education who were not interrupted. 
  • Risk of early marriage and parenthood: Increasing economic hardship and prevailing discriminatory social norms exacerbated by the pandemic increased the risk of vulnerable girls experiencing early marriage and parenting.

Also Read: Simple guidelines to improve teaching quality and effectiveness in the classroom

 

Challenges faced by specially-abled kids:

  • Attitudinal challenges: Negative attitudes of parents, teachers and other stakeholders towards disability discourage learning of disabled kids
  • Accessibility: Most school infrastructures don’t have ramps, disabled-friendly toilets, unique teaching materials and sensitized teachers in the school
  • Curricula, pedagogy and teaching materials: The unavailability of specially designed curricula and pedagogy hampers the development of children with special needs
  • Assessments:  There needs to be more flexibility and autonomy for designing school-based assessments relevant to the schools’ contexts and the diversity of children
  • A medical diagnosis of disability: While school-based assessments diagnose children’s learning needs and enhance their participation in learning, children with academic difficulties may also require a medical diagnosis to assess hidden disabilities

An interagency framework for reopening schools was released in June 2020 by UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank and World Food Program(WFP) to help educators navigate the unknowns following Covid-19. This framework still works as a boon for the marginalized communities in the current education scenario.

For learners from marginalized communities, such as girls, children with special needs and disabled kids, four key factors will be worth considering:

1. Policy reforms to include guidelines to ensure the inclusion of previously excluded marginalized children:

  •  The recovery plan must include marginalized girls and children with disabilities and address the digital divide for the poorest
  • The schools should adopt policies and practices to provide access to children who are out of the education system
  • Recovery plans post-COVID-19 must include understanding and analysing the gender gaps in the education system and implementing gender-responsive policies
  •  Systemic reforms must include more emphasis on the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy in the early grades because the most marginalized children lag in learning outcomes
  •  It is crucial to advocate for securing and financing better educational resources
  • Including teachers, parents, and caregivers in training support is also essential

2. Letting all children return to schools or other learning platforms:

  • Incentivizing by removing financial barriers and reducing households’ costs can be the most effective way to ensure that marginalized children return to school
  • Revise admissions and re-admissions requirements to ensure non-discrimination and eliminate barriers to reduce requirements for entry into school
  • It is essential to put up mechanisms to monitor the attendance of learners to follow up on those who are regularly absent from school. Absenteeism could be a sign of dropout, and we must address the reasons for absence
  •  Building partnerships with other actors, such as non-governmental organizations providing support for girls’ education, including women’s and girls’ movements, could lead to a concerted effort to get as many girls to return to school

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3. Making up for learning loss:

  •  Marginalized children who did not effectively participate in remote learning programs may be disproportionately affected. Addressing their learning gaps must be a priority in schools.
  • To mitigate inequalities that might have been created or exacerbated during school closures for the most marginalized groups, programs such as supplementary teaching, tutoring, catch-up classes, and extra-curricular non-formal learning activities could be adopted.

4. Ensuring the safety and well-being of kids:

  •  Promoting multitiered support systems beyond education may include social, emotional, psychological and mental health support. Teachers must keep close contact with learners and parents to determine which students may require additional intervention and counselling support.
  •  The aftermath of COVID-19 could include heightened risks of stigma, discrimination and violence, including bullying. The most marginalized children could be at risk and more exposed to violence. The Ministry of Education should support schools in setting up plans to address discrimination and stigma and prevent violence and bullying.
  • Plans must be in place to ensure the safety of learners on the way to and from school to minimize the risk of new infections. Similarly, government health safety protocols must be followed, including hand washing and general hygiene.

Girls and children with special needs and disabilities from marginalized communities faced lots of hardship before and after Covid-19. After reflecting on all past events, governments and institutions have realized how crucial inclusive learning and equality are in a person’s learning journey. Irrespective of where they come from, every child and person has the right to get educated and achieve holistic growth.

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