Vidya drops out of school

August 23, 2020 at 6:58 pm 20 comments

The Rs. 8000/- her father brought home every month loading confectionery boxes on to the trucks was supplemented by another Rs. 6000 that her mother earned by cleaning the vessels and mopping the floors in the nearby middle class homes. The combined family income and the food her mother carried home from her workplace ensured that Vidya and her two elder brothers were sufficiently fed and reasonably housed and were also kept in the nearby school. The school they went to had classrooms with large cracks and little furniture and the blackboards did not sufficiently reflect the occasional scribbling of the indifferent teacher, done with the white chalk. Yet, it provided the three siblings a place to go to every morning, interact and play with other children from similar and lesser backgrounds and also allowed them to pick up rudimentary lessons in language and numeracy. The children shared their books and pencils, squatted on the same torn mats and dipped into each others lunch boxes that inadvertently taught them the all crucial social and life skills. They were happy to be in the company of their friends and then the pandemic set in.

The lockdown ensured that there is little demand for chocolates or the biscuits and thus no more boxes for Vidya’s father to cart on to the trucks. His income halved in the first month of the pandemic before it became nil in the second and subsequent ones. Her mother was disallowed entry to the homes she cleaned and thus was denied of her wages and more importantly, the daily food. With little resources to bank on, the family relied on the government for the rationed food grains and the occasional handouts from voluntary organisations, both meagre to stop  compromising on their daily intakes. With schools shut indefinitely and learning stopped completely, the children with their parents stayed at home for months on end, with uncertainty writ large on their faces. 

When the children from elite private schools have access to laptops and mobile phones and are taught online, the lockdown on education is total in the state government school that Vidya attended. There are no teachers available to contact, no books to look into and no Zoom or Google meet to transact learning. For Vidya, there are no lesson plans or learning outcomes, neither online activities nor offline assignments that are now a routine for an upper-class school girl and to expect any teaching support from the semi-literate father or the illiterate mother would be like hoping to quench the thirst from a painted waterfall. With nowhere to go and nothing else to do, Vidya helps her mother in the kitchen to cook whatever little food the family can conjure up while her two brothers loiter in the squalid lanes of the slum they dwell.

While the impact of the pandemic on the economy are well publicised, the ravage that it has caused to the school education of the underprivileged is hardly discussed, much less flagged or documented. When millions of migrant workers were ejected out of their jobs, they left the cities with the families and children were hurriedly pulled out of the formal schools, both from the private and the government run. With no income even for bare subsistence, the eduction of the children is way below the priority list of these impoverished workers who have returned to their villages to escape abject poverty. And even if they desire to continue their ward’s education once the pandemic is over, there aren’t many schools in the hinterlands of the country worth the title and a huge number of certain dropouts from the education system seems inevitable. Whenever the workers decide to return to the city slums, many of the private schools that their children went to earlier would have already pulled down the shutters for want of children and the revenue to run them. While there are grandiose plans for the total overhaul of the education system and make the products coming out of it globally competitive by 2040, there isn’t yet a thinking on how to retain the millions of children who are on the verge of bidding adieu to formal learning. It’s now a double whammy for the India’s poor, an economically wreaking situation of the present and a very bleak future for their children!

Vidya’s parents are now contemplating of putting their two sons in a private school some distance away and for that they would need additional resources. As the lockdown is being lifted, Vidya is accompanying her mother to the homes she is working as maid. And with two additional hands, her mother has taken up two more homes for cleaning and mopping so that there is extra income in the family to pay the school fees of her two brothers. Vidya, all of fourteen, has said goodbye to her school!    



( 1USD= Rs.75 approx)



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20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. debjani6ghosh  |  August 23, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    You’re right. With so much emphasis on returning the migrant workers back to the cities, there is no spotlight on how much the education of their children is suffering. Well-thought-out, well-written article!

    • 2. chapter18  |  August 23, 2020 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks. The situation is indeed terrifying…

  • 3. Krishna  |  August 23, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Sad fate of many children in current scenario. A nice story Narayananji 😊💕

  • 4. Ayan  |  August 24, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    All true words. This is not any simple plain writing. This is a true journal of the thing happening presently. But who is to blame? And what is the solution? I doubt any one of the education system in our country, yes anyone has any answer?

    • 5. chapter18  |  August 24, 2020 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks. The issue is much larger… and terrifying

  • 6. aishwarya bhattad  |  August 25, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Thank you for throwing a light on something that would never really have caught our attention. Education is everybody’s right. And i feel heart broken for girls like vidya who sacrifice their rights to help the family. Indeed girls like vidya are strong and brave but how i wish she can go back to school and live a 14 year girl’s life like many of us led.

    • 7. chapter18  |  August 25, 2020 at 10:07 am

      Thanks. There is an urgent need for the country to act on this before a substantial part of a generation is lost…

  • 8. Indira  |  August 25, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    A story to ponder…plight of so many students…

  • 10. Indira  |  August 25, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for your visit to my post🙂

  • 11. positivesideofcoin  |  August 25, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Very true, this is what current scenario. That’s what I was discussing with my husband Today. So many kids are loosing so much he to this pandemic. Really nice story 👌.

    • 12. chapter18  |  August 25, 2020 at 8:44 pm

      It’s really bad situation for the school going children from the economically underprivileged section of the society.

  • 14. Vidya drops out of school – Thoughts of Sho  |  August 25, 2020 at 11:06 pm

    […] Vidya drops out of school […]

  • 15. Subbashini Meenakshi Sundaram  |  August 26, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Just one virus, changed the life of many. This is the situation we all have to think.

    • 16. chapter18  |  August 26, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      So true. But for some, the life has gone topsy-turvy

  • 17. Ranjini Madhavan  |  August 28, 2020 at 9:21 pm

    Cant read this as a story this is the current plight of students and scenario of the labourers .

    • 18. chapter18  |  August 28, 2020 at 9:32 pm

      It’s a true reflection of the current plight of many girl children…

  • 19. padmaja ramesh  |  August 29, 2020 at 7:17 am

    Oh god, when this discrimination ends up. Even it’s being followed in this modern world!!!
    The parents should realise.

    • 20. chapter18  |  August 29, 2020 at 7:22 am

      The discrimination is telling…


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