Assam: Nearly 4,500 schools shut down in state after Covid-19 pandemic

Published on Nov 14, 2022 03:03 PM IST

While there were 1.509 million schools in the country in 2020-21, the figure dropped by 20,000 to 1.489 million schools in 2021-22. Of these, nearly 4,500 (more than 20%) closed down in Assam

Students maintain social distancing as they attend a class after schools reopened after lockdown in Assam in September 2020. (PTI File Photo)
Students maintain social distancing as they attend a class after schools reopened after lockdown in Assam in September 2020. (PTI File Photo)

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely impact schools in Assam and other states in northeast India, according to a report released by the Union education ministry titled ‘Unified District Information System for Education Plus’ (UDISE+). The report states that over 4,500 schools in the region have shut down in 2021-22 compared to the previous year.

“The decline in total number of schools is mainly due to the closure of schools under private and other management,” the report mentioned.

While there were 1.509 million schools in the country in 2020-21, the figure dropped by 20,000 to 1.489 million schools in 2021-22. Of these, nearly 4,500 (more than 20%) closed down in Assam.

Assam had 43,591 primary schools in 2020-21. A year later, that figure dropped to 40,482. Similarly, the number of upper primary schools came down from 11,789 to 10,672 in the same period.

Though Covid-19 had impacted the education sector in 2020-21 as well, the effect was more on the enrolment of students, especially in lower classes and among students with special needs, than the closure of schools.

In 2020-21, the number of students enrolled in pre-primary classes dropped by 2.91 million, those in Class 1 dropped by 1.88 million and enrolment of students with special needs decreased by 80,000 in comparison to 2019-20.

Secondary schools witnessed a drop of 266 from 7556 in 2020-21 to 7,290 a year later. The only increase was seen in the number of higher secondary schools, from 2,267 in 2020-21 to 2,415 in 2021-22.

“While private schools may have closed down due to losses and dropout of students due to Covid-19, the decrease in government schools could be attributed to a decision to merge some non-performing schools with others nearby,” said an official of education department on conditions of anonymity.

In August this year, the government had ordered merger of 195 newly provincialised schools with secondary schools. The same month, 34 government schools with zero success rate in Class X board exams were decided to be closed down and their students attached with nearby schools.

Apart from decrease in number of schools, the total number of teachers working in schools in Assam also declined from 370,341 in 2020-21 to 352,944 in 2021-22, the UDISE+ report mentioned.

The overall enrolment in schools in Assam also recorded a drop of 37,049 from 7,582,019 in 2020-21 to 7,544,960 to 2021-22. The number of new admissions in Class 1 decreased 36,003 from 710,236 in 2020-21 to 674,233 in 2021-22.

Quoting the latest UDISE+ report, Assam education minister Ranoj Pegu stated earlier this month that the dropout rate in primary schools has nearly doubled due from 2020-21 to 2021-22 because of Covid-19.

“Increasing dropout rate is a national phenomenon. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the entire education system, mostly the primary education suffered a lot and resulted in school dropout,” the minister told journalists this week.

While the dropout rate in primary schools was 3.3% in 2020-21, it increased to 6.02% in 2021-22. For upper primary schools, the dropout rate increased from 4.6% in 2020-21 to 8.8% in 2021-22. The total number of dropout students was 129,543.

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Pegu added that the dropout rate could be on the higher side as many fake students enrolled by government schools in order to get bigger amounts of grants, mid-day meal provisions, text books, uniform and other benefits were filtered out through an ongoing surveillance mechanism.

“Many schools had uploaded inflated enrolment figures on the UDISE+ portal directly in order to avoid merger or closure due to low student enrolment. But with data purification undertaken, we expect the situation to stabilise soon,” the minister said.

The only silver lining was the lowering of dropout percentage in secondary schools from 31% in 2020-21 to 20.3% in 2021-22.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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