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The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented rise in the school dropout rate in Odisha, especially in the rural belt as poorer children are seen at a higher risk of dropping out as compared to their affluent counterparts.
Though the State government introduced online education for students, lack of facilities like mobile phones, internet connection and electricity made the e-learning process elusive for students in rural areas.
Besides, insecure financial condition of parents due to the pandemic impact has been seen as the major causes of children giving schools the miss.
After remaining away from schools during the pandemic, most of the children have either started helping their families in daily chores or engaged in a variety of construction works.
"We have started working in the stone quarry after our school was shut. We earn a little here which helps our families," said a student.
Another student said, "We have nothing to do, so, either we rear cattle or go for bird hunting."
In Koraput district alone, the dropout number is more than 4,200. Swabhiman Anchal in Malkangiri district also has a disturbing trend of students dropping out from schools.
This year, around 30,000 students had passed out from Adarsha Abasika Vidyalays in Odisha. Out of them, around 13000 opted for Plus 2 and other courses while around 17,000 students have reportedly quit study.
As per reports, over 3 lakh students quit schools during the pandemic. Now, the State government has started to identify the students in a bid to bring them back.
“The number of dropout cases, which used to be around 1 lakh, increased to more than 3 lakh during the pandemic. Taking this into account, we hope the State government will make arrangements to open all schools and ensure conduct of regular classes,” said Prakash Mohanty, general secretary of OSTA.
Koraput DEO Ramachandra Nahak said, “We found high dropout rate during door-to-door survey. Our efforts are on to bring the students back to the mainstream."