September 20, 2021

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Child rights during the pandemic : challenges and opportunities

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Image source: https://bit.ly/3eocjRF

This article has been written by Semantika Gosh.

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With the onset of the unprecedented global health crisis, the covid-19 pandemic, it has adversely affected everyone especially the children.  The covid-19 pandemic has given rise to major humanitarian and human rights crises causing physical, mental psychological, cultural and social impacts on the children. The children were exposed to such a situation which was a bit hard for them to understand. The lockdown that occurred in every country led to many ill-fated events for a large number of people. With the negative effect on the economy which led to unemployment and other financial problems, the families had to go through really tough times which brought upon a change in many ways. The increase in the violation of the basic rights of the vulnerable people included the children and women who had to be depended on others. The compulsion of staying at home at all times severely affected many people in terms of earning money and their mental health. Not only were the adults under a lot of mental pressure but also the children were heavily impacted during this pandemic.

The pandemic has affected and is still continuing to affect the rights of the children and the children in countless ways and faced many challenges. The lockdown imposed by the government to keep everyone safe took away the basic rights of everyone that is the right to freedom of movement. The following are the challenges faced by the children and the opportunities that they got as well:

Children in poverty

In poor families, the children are usually disproportionately affected by poverty. During this pandemic, many people have lost their jobs due to the lockdown imposed by the government. The vulnerable families and children could not access the support and could not help themselves in this matter. The children who used to depend on the free meals given to them in their school could not avail themselves anymore as schools were all shut down. As the financial problems of the poor families increased the schooling and childcare was reduced. The migrant and refugee children could not access the services and help that they needed. With many losing their family members to the deadly virus, their problems arose. A huge number of children had problems accessing daily food and medicine. 

Many children are fighting against malnourishment. Non-profit organisations and government schemes of providing help to the children who cannot afford proper health care and support were also stopped. Government schemes like Pradhan Mantri Kalyan Scheme helped cover 80 crore, poor people, the government provided them with 5kg of rice or wheat and 1kg of pulse per household for three months. Women below the poverty line would be given free cylinders for three months under Ujjwala Scheme. Under the PM-KISAN scheme, front-loaded payout was given to 8.96 crore farmers. 

Education of children

With the closure of schools, education has been affected for all children. This deeply affected the children’s right to education as many students did not have proper access to e-learning resources. Formal offline education has been paused and online mode has been adopted in order to provide education. This especially affected the deprived, poor children. With the insufficient facilities and the strain in the financial situations of the poor families, many children had to drop out of their school as they could not afford it. In many rural areas, the network needed to attend online school was not sufficient and most rural places do not get enough electricity throughout the day as well. Buying electronic goods was one of the problems that they faced. 

There have been situations where families had to sell something valuable of theirs to get an electronic device for the children so that their children could attend school. The government came up with the Shaubhagya Scheme where the government will provide electricity to 99.9% of the homes in India. The Bollywood actor, Sonu Sood provided a large number of poor children with phones to fulfill their education during the course of online education.

Children with physical disabilities

In many cases, the children who are physically vulnerable, children who were born with disabilities could not attend the online classes due to their physical disabilities. The online classes and online educational materials are ill-adapted to them. Although, the children who had proper access to e-learning and were free from any physical difficulties which would have caused a problem for them, had no guarantee about the quality of the education that they would receive. It has been a huge struggle trying to adapt to the online mode of teaching as many people lack digital skills.

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Teachers could not monitor the progress of the children because of the distance and a load of providing education falls on the parents who might be uneducated or busy with their work commitments and cannot give the required attention to the children. The young children from the 1st to 5th standard do not have much knowledge about electronic devices and are not able to understand anything. As for the children much older, they are losing out on the practical knowledge that could have been learnt in school and missing out on the most memorable time of their lives.  

Violence faced by children 

Studies have proved that violence, neglect, exploitation and abuse of children increase in any sort of crisis. Due to the pandemic and the lockdown, the protective systems were not accessible for the disturbed children. This pandemic has resulted in 13 million child marriages and 2 million cases of female genital mutilation. A covid-19 lockdown has exposed the children to an increased risk of violence.  Children especially the girls are suffering some form of sexual violence, discrimination, abuse and violence. Girls mostly were made to drop out of school and do household duties during confinement. There were increasing gender inequalities. The confinement made it hard for them to seek out help. 

The children’s access to justice has also been reduced due to the closing of the courts. The children experienced increased levels of mental illnesses resulting from the pandemic and the situations they were put in. The Child Protection Scheme provided monetary benefit to the poor children who came from broken families. ‘Operation Muskaan’ rescued a total of 16,457 children, these children were trafficked and exploited sexually and were made to beg on the streets.

Mental health of children

Children need social child-friendly environments to build their personality and to explore their potential. Such things are not happening as they are confined to their homes. Many are developing physical disabilities like obesity. They cannot socialize with people making them anti-social and giving rise to complexes and anti-social personalities which would be a problem for them when they go out in the real world and have to face difficult situations on their own. Studies have shown that some children were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and other sorts of disorders. Children, during the lockdown periods, had no physical access to peers, friends and relatives leading them to have mood swings as they turned out to get easily bored, frustrated and angry leading them to face mental issues from this age. 

Children are dependent on others for their overall development and are considered to be one of the weaker sections of society. Going through this pandemic is not easy for anyone and it is especially harsh for the young minds who are just blooming with ideas, enthusiasm and energy. It is important to make sure they are learning something new and meaningful every day.  With nurture and care given to them we can emerge from this crisis feeling stronger emotionally and happy mentally and almost ready to face any situation that occurs in their lives. 


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