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Reeling Under Lockdown Impact, West Bengal Students Junk School for Cash

The number of school dropouts in the state is increasing with students preferring to work and support their families.
Reeling Under Lockdown Impact, West Bengal Students Junk School for Cash

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: The Indian Express

Kolkata: At barely 18, Sukalpa Das prefers working for Zomato than completing his 10+2 in the science stream. The resident of Bijoygarh, Kolkata, quit class 11 at Netaji Nagar School during the lockdown to join the restaurant aggregator and food delivery company.

Das is among the increasing number of school/college dropouts in West Bengal who are hopeless about the reopening of their educational institutions and have joined either Zomato or Swiggy to earn for their families, reeling under the severe effects of the lockdown.

I supported my father and mother during the severe lockdown with my monthly salary of Rs 10,000,” Das told Newsclick. But he can complete his intercollege with his father rejoining Bata as a third-party contract employee. “I might complete 10+2 later,” Das, who scored more than 75% marks in the Bengal Board exams, said adding that money matters most important to him and his family right now.

Das’s next target is to own a motorbike that will help him work for 12 hours a day and fetch Rs 20,000 per month. “Even after graduating, I won’t be able to earn that much,” he said.

The debilitating lockdown jolted Das, who “loved to study” with maths being his “favourite subject”. “The lockdown made me realise the importance of money. We went hungry for more than a fortnight eating only one meal a day as Kolkata reeled under the effects of the lockdown,” he said.

Girls are not far behind with several dropouts joining beauty parlours, according to reports. Following the spike in the number of school/college dropouts, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) has started a statewide survey to gauge the seriousness of the problem. The survey, which has already begun in Jhargram, North 24 Parganas, Burwan and Kolkata, aims to find out how many students are doing jobs to support their families and the number of girls married off without completion of studies after the lockdown, according to SFI state secretary Srijan Bhattacharya.

According to the survey, which is expected to be complete by January, around 30%-35% of students have quit studies to take up jobs in Jhargram alone. Students of class 9 onwards mainly work as daily wagers to support their families and several girls have been married off, according to reports available with the SFI. The situation in Bongaon and Basirhat municipalities of North 24 Parganas is similar. Some dropouts have even migrated to neighbouring states to work as labourers.

The All Bengal Teachers’ Association (ABTA) has expressed anguish at the increasing number of school/college dropouts. Sukumar Paine, general secretary, ABTA, told Newsclick that the organisation had orgainsed protest marches in the state demanding the immediate reopening of schools. ABTA had arranged for alternative classes during the lockdown to minimise the impact of the digital divide on marginalised students, dependent on government-run and sponsored schools.

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