ISLAMABAD: The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically affected parents’ expectations about the future of their children’s education, having few concerns about the reopening of schools.

Key findings were made in the first phone survey conducted by the World Bank to assess the impact of school closures on girls’ education in Punjab. A series of surveys are to be carried out by the World Bank on the effect of Covid-19.

Twenty-one per cent of the parents of girls and 42pc of boys report that their expectations for the highest grade their child would complete have fallen as a result of school closures.

World Bank to carry out series of phone surveys to assess effects of Covid-19

Households who report having lost income during the school closures are more likely to say their expectations have reduced due to a decrease in income by 25pc compared to 15pc for households that did not lose income.

Yet this is not the common reason: both groups of households are overwhelmingly concerned that their children will not be able to catch up with learning.

The survey says 88pc of parents had no concern about schools reopening.

However, parents of girls were slightly more likely to report being concerned about the health of their child compared to parents of boys.

The survey carried out between August 21 and October 27, 2020 reached 5,898 families, predominantly those with girls aged 10 to 14 enrolled in grades 5 to 7.

The survey respondents were from six districts of Punjab.

Additional rounds of phone interviews will be carried out to test the effectiveness of phone-based text messages to ensure that girls continue to learn and re-enroll in school once they reopen.

In subsequent surveys, the World Bank will seek to engage households in semi-structured interviews and will assess how the situation evolves as the crisis stretches into 2021.

When respondents were asked to report how children in their household spend their time on a range of activities while schools are closed, the parents said both boys and girls spent almost three hours on average on academic learning – with girls’ parents reporting about twelve minutes more on average.

The findings also suggest that time use during the lockdowns is somewhat gendered.

Girls’ families say their children spend about an hour and twenty minutes per day on household chores, while boys’ parents report that their children spend an hour and ten minutes on chores.

While girls’ and boys’ families report that their children spend roughly equal amount of time on family care, there is a distinct gendered pattern.

Girls’ parents are more likely to report that their children are spending time looking after siblings, while boys’ parents are more likely to report that their children are spending time looking after elders.

Boys’ parents are likely to report that their children spend more time on leisure activities than girls’ parents do – about two-and-a-half hours compared to two hours. The families of boys say their children do two-and-a-half hours of work outside their household compared to those of girls who report their children spend half as much time on this – about one hour and 15 minutes.

Of female students who were enrolled in schools pre-Covid-19, 2.5pc in the survey may not return to schools after they reopen.

An even greater percentage of boys (4.9pc) in the survey who were previously enrolled may not return to schools. When it was inquired about the siblings of these children, the numbers are higher for older children (7pc on average for those aged 13–17) than for younger children (2pc on average those aged 5–12).

Taken together, it seems that a substantial share of students may be lost from the education system, particularly in adolescence, notes the survey.

While two-thirds of the households have access to TV or internet, most parents do not know about available options for remote learning. When asked specifically about ‘Teleschool’ or ‘Taleem Ghar’, only 22pc of those with a TV reported that they were familiar with these programmes.

On average, few families reported that their children take advantage of remote learning. However, among those who knew of available remote learning opportunities, the average was higher.

Less than one percent of households in the survey report someone in the household having gotten sick from Covid-19 or having died. Thirty-six per cent of parents in the survey reported losing a substantial share of income. This suggests that Covid-19 had predominantly manifested itself as an income shock among these households by the time the survey was conducted.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021

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