COVID-19 and Education: An explorative study on change in aspirations and agricultural futures

Authors: Falak Jalali*,
Topics: Higher Education, Development, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Higher education, Development, Modernity, Gender, Political Geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 17
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Globally, education has long been viewed as the principal pathway to upward mobility. This has become especially true in India, where scholars, such as Amartya Sen, have argued that education is central for expanding ‘capacities’ and ending intergenerational poverty. While education is valuable as an investment in human capital and a path to upward mobility, it is also seen as a source of hope that may sustain otherwise difficult agrarian livelihoods. Given the importance education holds in agrarian India, COVID-19’s disruption of schooling and testing schedules provoked stress and anxiety for families already concerned about India’s already hyper-competitive labor market. Drawing on five months of in-depth, telephonic interviews in one district of Himachal Pradesh (HP), this paper explores how COVID-19 may have shaped educational plans and aspirations in sometimes unexpected ways. In particular, our data shows that agrarian Indian mothers navigate contradictory desires for children to succeed in upwardly mobile professions while also maintain traditional values that include agricultural labor and caring for elderly parents. Moreover, the uncertainty and urban threat caused by COVID-19 seemed to further bolster women’s desires for their children to stay close and occupy sensible, if less prestigious and remunerative, positions. We put this data into conversation with narratives from youth as a way to highlight how intergenerational negotiations over the future of farming in HP might be profoundly shaped by repercussions felt by COVID-19.

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