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First-generation learners stare at a bleak future in Odisha

First-generation learners in Nuapada district.  

Being brought up amidst parents without any formal education generally leaves children at a disadvantage. But, when access to classroom-teaching, the only line of guidance for the first-generation learners, got cut-off during the COVID-19 pandemic, it proved to be a double-whammy for hundreds of children in rural Odisha.

At Darlipada, in Boden block of Nuapada district, Laxmi Jagat, 17, feels the pain of being kept away from classroom teaching better than others.

She considers herself lucky as she managed to scrape through the matriculation examination with 198 marks (32%) this year. In her own words she had no idea about the subjects, which were supposed to be taught in Class X.

As one goes through her copies, half of them are left blank indicating towards inadequate studies she had undertaken.

Laxmi’s parents, daily wage earners, have never been to a school. In her family, Laxmi is the first to have completed matriculation.

As Laxmi knows that two academic years have gone waste without any semblance of serious studies, she decided that her younger brother, Bedavyas Jagat, will study in Class IX again to gain any meaningful knowledge.

“I did not have a smartphone. We used to share one smartphone for online classes. The internet used to be patchy so was our studies. As a first generation learner, I faced low parental encouragement. Teachers never contacted us and discussed about academic advancement during the two academic sessions,” narrates Laxmi.

‘No guidance’

Tankadhar Jagat, who will be appearing for matriculation examination this year, is not able to solve simple addition problems. “During past two years, I have hardly studied. Neither my parents ever insisted me to study nor was there any family member to guide me during this critical phase,” Tankadhar, who is a first-generation learner, admits. He spent all his time playing cricket and herding cattle.

In Darlipada, many first-generation learners even don’t know the subjects being taught in their respective classes. They clearly appeared to have lagged behind in their academic careers.

“If these children are kept away from formal education for long, first-generation learners won’t not take much time to join the labour force which their parents are part of. Hundreds of families from Nuapada and other western Odisha districts travel annually for work in brick kilns. It would not be a surprise if some first-generation learners land in any of the brick kilns in the near future,” said Jyoti Prakash Brahma, a researchers with Aide et Action, a voluntary organisation.

“First-generation learners need special attention if we want to ensure their career progress. Teachers will have a critical role to play as these students do not have anyone to guide them at their homes,” said Anil Pradhan, convener of Odisha Right To Education Forum.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 8:15:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/first-generation-learners-stare-at-a-bleak-future-in-odisha/article36558606.ece

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