Maharashtra : Rural students on the verge of college dropout due to lockdown woes

Mumbai: Many students from the remotest area of India who could make into higher education came on merit. Coronavirus has worst hit these studies as hostels in cities shut and family finances shrunk, many are forced to drop out of formal education for now. Few of such youth have joined their families in their villages for farming and trading activities, while many others have begun searching for locally available jobs.

In the case of Lokesh More, he was forced to work as a faculty in a nearby computer centre. a 20-year old from Jalgaon’s Yaval village was directly admitted to second-year engineering degree course last year after topping his diploma. Now he has confidence or hope left for securing a job after completing his degree. He is not sure of getting back to studies in the next academic year.

More said, ‘The fees for the next year are Rs 75,000, and I have no resources to pay that much.My father is a labourer. He cultivated about 30 tonnes of lemons on another farmer’s land and lost an investment of Rs 45,000 due to COVID-19. Most of the lemon crop was spoiled as it was not possible to sell them locally and transportation was shut’. ‘I had a CGPA (Cumulative Grade Points Average) of 8.09,’ adding that financial assistance will also be required to support his brother, who will be appearing for class XII, added More.

28-year-old Rakesh Malke of Chandrapur’s Doma village in Chimur district is preparing for various competitive exams under the Maharashtra Public Service Commission alongside completing his Bachelors in Education (BEd) degree. Before the lockdown, Malke stayed at Nagpur University’s hostel. He said, ‘when I see my parents working on farms, studying for exams is not something that occurs to me. I am expected to partake in all big and small tasks here’.

He further added, ‘For students hailing from villages, like me, the main aim is to secure a government job. We stay in college hostels by enrolling for a degree since villages don’t provide the right kind of environment needed for studying. Several of my friends are now stuck in villages, unsure of what will happen’. For now, Malke’s plan to pursue a Masters in Education has been put on hold indefinitely.

Ambedkar Students Association member Ghapesh Dhawale says in Vidarbha, 50 per cent students studying law, pharmacy and Masters in Science (MSc) in Nagpur University hail from villages. Since 60% of them do not find allotment in hostels, they avail a scheme under the Ministry of Social Welfare that grants them assistance to rent rooms. Many such beneficiaries have not been paid, and most hostels are being used for Covid-19 duty.

According to a survey, conducted by IIT-Bombay faculty B N Jagtap and educationist Anand Mapuskar had found that 82% students of higher education in Maharashtra anticipated difficulty in funding their education in the academic year 2020-21. Of the 38,108 respondents, the difficulty in funding education has been expressed by 80 per cent female and 84 per cent male students. The report also found that 27 % students fear the chance of them continuing education in the academic year 2020-21 is low to very slim.

Pro-vice-chancellor of Swami Ramanand Teerth Marathwada University, Nanded, Dr Jogendrasinh Bisen said, ‘We have sent out a circular to all colleges asking them to allow students to pay fees in multiple instalments. It’s true that pursuing online education is a challenge for students in rural areas for various reasons. However, reopening hostels doesn’t seem possible until November.

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