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India’s Poor Risk Falling Through the Gaps as Schools Go Digital

  • India’s surging virus numbers make return to school uncertain
  • Long absence from school puts kids at risk of dropping out
An open-air class for students, who lack digital devices to attend their schools’ online classes, in New Delhi on July 20.
An open-air class for students, who lack digital devices to attend their schools’ online classes, in New Delhi on July 20.Photographer: Amarjeet Kumar Singh/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The coronavirus has pushed schools all over the world to go online as new waves of infections keep emerging. In India, a country where the gaps in access to education and the Internet were already vast, poor families are struggling to stay the course.

Shirin Riyaz Shah, 15, attends a small private school in Mumbai. There’s one smart-phone between her and her four siblings over which they sit through Zoom lessons and submit homework via WhatsApp. Their schedules don’t blend neatly and there’s a constant tussle over the phone.