As the year comes to a close and we gear up to welcome 2023, here’s revisiting some of the major events this year that significantly contributed in drawing the attention to children and their issues
After two long years, as coronavirus cases finally dipped this year, we are trying to get back to the ‘pre-pandemic’ era, gradually coming out of virtual meets and switching back to regular work schedule.
And so are our children — from reeling under continuous stress of adjusting to online learning, closure of schools, meeting friends virtually, no play outdoors — they have finally been able to get back to schools earlier this year.
There’s no denying that the scars left by the pandemic on our children are still fresh and we are on the brink of another possible wave with a global surge of the new COVID-19 BF.7 variant.
But it’s also time to start building back, reversing the downward trends for good. It’s time to instil courage, confidence and resilience in our children — to make them stronger from within, both physically and mentally.
So, as the year recedes, here’s some great and not-so-great things that it offered to our children:
The year started on a heart-warming note for children as COVID-19 vaccination in the age-group of 15-18 years commenced from January 3, 2022. In the next couple of months, the inoculation of children aged 12-14 years started as well.
In April, India included children below 12 years in its COVID-19 vaccination programme, as Corbevax was approved by the Drugs Controller General (DGCI) for administration among children aged 5-12 years, while Covaxin was cleared for use in those aged 6-12 years.
Almost simultaneously, schools began to open the doors for children of all classes, right from the pre-primary to the higher secondary levels. Though schools reopened for higher classes (Class 9 to 12) in September last year, it was only at the beginning of this year when schools reopened for students of all classes across the country, finally letting kids get back to schools.
The year witnessed both reassuring and worrying trends in school education, as child enrolment increased while the number of schools reduced.
According to the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2021-22 report, overall enrolment in schools across all levels (Class 1 to 12) has increased by 0.76 per cent in 2021-22, as compared to 2020-21. This was indeed great news, especially in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak and was raising havoc all across the country.
Breaking it down to absolute numbers, the total enrolment in 2021-22 from primary to higher secondary levels of school education was a little over 255.7 million. Enrolment for boys was 132.8 million and that of girls was 122.8 million. This was an increase of more than 1.9 million over 2020-21.
But, the year also saw a dip in the number of schools, as over 20,000 schools were either closed or merged with neighbouring schools across the country in 2021-22.
The number of schools fell to 1.489 million during 2021-22 from 1.509 million in 2020-21, according to the UDISE+ report. Also, there has been a decline of 1.95 per cent teachers over the past one year, as the number of teachers came down to 9.507 million in 2021-22 from 9.787 million in 2020-21.
National Crime Records Bureau 2021 data, released this year, revealed a remarkable 16.2 per cent increase in crimes reported against children in 2021, compared to the previous year.
According to the report, a total of 149,404 cases of crimes against children were recorded last year. This means that every hour, 17 crimes have been committed against children — translating to a whopping 409 crimes being committed every day against children in the country in 2021.
Also, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which was enacted in November 2012 to prevent heinous crimes of child sexual abuse recently completed a decade this year. In the last 10 years, the Act has been amended a few times to ensure stricter punishment and regulation for protecting the modesty and dignity of India’s children.
Among other nutrition parameters, child and adolescent anaemia was of serious concern. It affected a large number of people across all age-groups, including children below five years, and pregnant women, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 5th round, 2019-21) released late last year.
The report revealed an increase in the prevalence of anaemia among women and children compared to the previous NFHS-4 survey that was conducted in 2015-16. According to the findings of NFHS-5, 52.2 per cent of pregnant women aged 15-49 years were anaemic, an increase of 1.8 percentage points from 50.4 per cent (NFHS-4).
In terms of children, the recent NFHS-5 data recorded 67.1 per cent of children aged 6-59 months as anaemic. It shows a sharp increase of 8.5 percentage points from 58.6 per cent (NFHS-4, 2015-16) — the highest spike among all other age-groups of children. The increase in numbers of severely wasted children below five years as revealed by NFHS-5 data also needs special attention.
As we look back and count the year's gifts for our children, some iconic moments stand out and stay with us.
How can we forget how wonderfully children adapted to getting back towards normal life — how they stood beside their own, reaching out and helping each other with resilience.
But most of all, I will remember the extremely crucial role played by the teachers. Many of them went through pay cuts, many even lost their jobs. But they held fort and stood like the Rock of Gibraltar — silent and steadfast — to make sure that our children could sail through the huge loss of education in a most challenging time.
Puja Marwaha is CEO, CRY – Child Rights and You
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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