Absent Students: How dropout rate went up in Odisha post pandemic

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In the pandemic-hit 2020-21, 49,098 students dropped out of school before entering higher secondary level, including 15,792 tribal and 11,045 students from the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. In 2019-20, 8,168 students dropped out after secondary school, shared School and Mass Education Minister Sameer Ranjan Dash in a reply in the assembly.

According to the data, at 6,731, the highest dropouts were in Kalahandi district, including 2,086 ST and 905 SC students, followed by Koraput district, 3,587, including 1,821 ST and 618 SC. The lowest was recorded in Mayurbhanj district with 13 students, followed by Cuttack, where only 19 dropped out.

Among the coastal districts, 2,363 students in Ganjam, 1,822 in Bhadrak, 1,734 in Khurda, 1,592 in Balasore, 1,364 in Jagatsinghpur and 1,255 in Puri dropped out. In Sundargarh, 3,426 students and in Angul 2,715 left. Similarly, 2,679 students left education midway in Bargarh, 2,350 in Nuapada, 2,020 in Malkangiri and 2,011 in Keonjhar.

As per data accessed by the Indian Express, while the dropout rate decreased for primary, upper primary and elementary sections to six per cent in 2018-19, it drastically increased to 23.39 per cent in 2019-20. The Net Enrollment Ratio (NER) also dropped for secondary sections from 57.51 per cent in 2018-19 to 54.62 in 2019-20.

In another response furnished by the minister, only 29 per cent students from across the state have access to smart phones. For maximum reach, the school and mass education department even started lessons through Doordarshan, YouTube and radio.

Through YouTube, the state could only reach out to 33.52 per cent of the total students, while only 22.46 per cent attended classes broadcast by Doordarshan under the Shiksha Darpan initiative.

The figures were further low for radio pathshala for classes I -VIII, which was only attended by nine per cent students. Of the 43.72 lakh students enrolled at the elementary level (from Class I to VIII), only 15.92 lakh, 36.42 per cent, watched live YouTube classes when school remained shut. At secondary level, the percentage who attended live YouTube classes was only 33.52.

The Shiksha Darpan programme on Doordarshan was attended by 20.10 per cent students at elementary and 24.8 per cent at secondary levels. The radio pathshala was attended by 9.47 per cent students. Of the 43.72 lakh elementary students, a little over 4 lakh attended radio classes in the previous academic session.

In the last one year, the department has initiated various schemes to curtail and check dropout rates. “As schools are now reopening, we will ensure all students are tracked and enrolled in school. We already have an initiative where teachers and principals visit dropout students and their families to convince and provide them help to continue school. This was affected during to the pandemic, but we have asked all district education officers to bring back students by extending all help under the existing schemes,” Dash said.

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