Current AffairsIndia

Gujarat High Court registers suo motu PIL over ‘serious plight’ of school children amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Gujarat High Court recently instituted suo motu proceedings, taking cognizance of a study on households that had children enrolled in schools, conducted by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and the UNICEF amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The study was reported in the Indian Express.

The Bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora took a serious view of various findings that indicated that the children were facing difficulty in accessing education and mid-meal-like schemes.

This Court is of the view that the attention of the State Government should be immediately drawn to the aforesaid, and in such circumstances, we deem fit to take suo motu cognizance of the above in public interest”, the Court went on to hold.

Findings of the survey

The study sought to understand accessibility to remote learning and the challenges faced by students and parents. In its order, the Court referenced a few of the survey’s key findings, which included:

  • 85 per cent of the parents reported that they were not able to access anything in lieu of the mid-day meals since March, when the schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 30 per cent of the children had not engaged in any formal learning activities since March 2020. This was highest for those attending the private schools (33 per cent), followed by the Government schools (26 per cent), and those attending the private schools through the RTE mandate (22 per cent).
  • 54 per cent of the parents had been asked to pay the fees during the months of the lockdown. Over 40 per cent of the parents with children in the private schools were unaware of the fee relief. Among those asked to pay the fees, more than 50 per cent admitted that it was difficult for them to arrange the required amount and meet the payment deadline.
  • Some parents even considered the alternate option of transfers to other schools or even dropping their children out of the school for the year.
  • Only 54 per cent of the families said that they have a functioning television with cable/DTH. Less than 2 per cent had access to a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection and email was used by less than 12 per cent of the families.

Describing the situation as serious, the Gujarat High Court directed that notice be served on the Gujarat Education department and Commissioner of the State Midday meal schemes.

Via Bar & Bench
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