Stifled dreams in Bhimwadi

Print edition : October 08, 2021

Anushka Nagtode (right) and Disha Meshram (middle).

Anushka and Disha barely went to Anganwadi (pre-school) as the lockdown began soon after they joined. Their parents have recently enrolled them in a government school in Class 1. But as the schools are closed, they have not attended classes even for a single day. They have received their textbooks from the school but they are unable to read any letters in either Marathi or English.

They live in a small hamlet called Bhimwadi in Nanhori village of Chandrapur district, Maharashtra. Bhimwadi is a predominantly Buddhist (Scheduled Caste) hamlet with around 20-25 households. Many young children there have been recently enrolled in Class 1 or promoted to Class 2.

Shaurya Nandagawali has been promoted to Class 2 without learning how to read or write. He was enrolled in school last year, but due to the lockdown he could never attend school. His family has a smartphone but it is of no help because the local government school is not providing any online study material. He too has received textbooks from the school, but without any teacher, he does not know how to make use of them. His mother complains that he is becoming a television addict.

All these children are now facing the basic problem of literacy. Their parents try to teach them reading and writing, but they say that most of their efforts are futile as education can only be imparted at school by the teachers. Some of them are unable to teach their children even if they want to learn, either because they lack formal education themselves or because they are too busy making ends meet. When we asked them whether their child goes to any coaching classes when schools are closed, they answered, gaavat kuthli tuition? (there are no tuitions in villages).

With no assurance that schools will reopen any time soon, many parents are worried that their child may remain illiterate. Most discussions around opening schools have been restricted to the upper-primary or secondary classes. There is no acknowledgement that the younger children are most affected because they have been locked-out of the schools in their initial years of learning.

Even when these children go back to school, we do not know how the system will make up for this unfavourable start.

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