Editorial Team

COVID-19 has changed the way education was once dispensed all across the world. The transition to online modules also pushed underserved children further across the digital divide, deepened educational disparity, and made it tougher for economically challenged families to educate their children. On National Education Day (November 11), educationist Rajesh Bhatia who runs the TreeHouse chain of playschools hopes the faultlines will be addressed to make education more accessible, sustainable and affordable.

He says, “If we see the inherent message of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, it is about equity. Until there is economic, social, and educational disparity, we cannot build a sustainable world. And post COVID-19, we must repair and revitalise what has been broken especially when it comes to saving the educational needs of all our children, across all demographics, in every part of the world.”

Bhatia feels, education cannot be an afterthought for nations or international communities while talking about sustainability because it is the very foundation of all societies. He says, “If we leave behind a large section of children and young people just because they cannot afford even basic education, we will be facing a human resource deficit and a stunted demographic dividend. There must be collaborative impetus in the direction of a sustainable education model that can serve even the most marginalised children.”

Without education, the circle of poverty and deprivation cannot break, he reminds and adds, “Unless we make education a central priority, we will not make any meaningful post COVID recovery as far as the economy, social or health markers go in the long run. Without inclusive and equitable education, vocational and employment opportunities shrink enormously and this does not bode well for long-term progress.”

At the peak of the pandemic, UNESCO data revealed that over 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries were out of school. Rajesh also cites unesco.org to say, “At the moment, more than 262 million children and youth are out of school. Six out of ten are not acquiring basic literacy and numeracy and 750 million adults are illiterate. How can these numbers build a world of equity, prosperity, and social and economic justice?”

He concedes that the pandemic has led to fiscal austerity and there will be cuts as far as investments go but as he says, “Still, just as we cannot compromise on health care for all, we cannot compromise of human development because only when we grow together, can we meet the goals of universal sustainability. Whether it is issues like the digital divide or girls dropping out of schools, we must address them while there is time. Let us not forget that schemes like mid-day meals also serve essential nutritional needs of impoverished children so let us invest in ideas that will build healthier adults and a better tomorrow.”

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