During the Covid-19 induced lockdown, thousands of children in districts of Chhattisgarh have been deprived of education. Due to the lack of opportunities, it is being feared that they may turn to Naxalism. According to reports, almost 30,000 children who were studying in 60 makeshift schools, built from bamboo or similar materials, have their educational future hanging in the balance.
Not just this, a huge number of students have been compelled to drop out owing to economic condition, so there is no question of enrolling new students for the time being.
Now, there is an even bigger question looming before the authorities: Will the students, who have not frequented their classrooms for almost two semesters, turn to the Maoist ideology?
Security agencies have voiced their apprehensions in this regard. According to them, since Maoists are working on expanding their network during the pandemic the school drop-outs are most likely to be targeted for enlistment.
There are certain things about the Chhattisgarh education system that one has to understand. Firstly, there is a huge shortage of schools in the remote areas, so classes have been set up in temporary structures, which were shut down during the Covid-19 outbreak. Similarly, there are almost 2 lakh boarding schools across the state, which have also been closed. Owing to the closure of schools in Maoist-affected districts such as Sukma, Dantewada, Bastar and Narayanpur, mid-day meals for children have also been stopped along with education.
According to a school warden in Bijapur, most villages lack an internet connection. The Indian Express has reported that when the schools shut down, the older, teenage students were still enquiring about their education, but the younger students were completely cut off from education. Recently, there was a protest by the students of Koyalibeda in Kankar, over the dropping out of 3000 school children during the pandemic.
A report which quotes an official from Bastar, says that around 50,000 school children may be swayed by Naxal influence. A senior IPS officer said, “These teenagers are capable of writing banners, posters and are also big enough to be brainwashed… In some recent protests, we have seen a huge number of students who are of the age group between 16 to 18 years. They might be vulnerable,” the official added.