KOCHI: As uncertainty continues over the reopening of educational institutions, which have been shut since the last week of March due to Covid lockdown, many schools and colleges in Kerala have switched to digital classes. Though online classes have started for students, both the teachers and students are facing several challenges in properly conducting the virtual classes.
For students from the underprivileged sections of the society, getting a smart phone or computer with internet connection is not possible. Uninterrupted power supply and quality internet connectivity also are challenges for getting a digital education.
“There are many families in rural areas which can’t afford to buy a computer or smart phone for their children. Even when many underprivileged families have sent their children to good private management schools to provide best education, they are unable to pay for a smart phone or laptop. Moreover, the daily wage labourers, fishermen, agriculture workers and small scale traders are worst hit by the national lockdown. They are in deep financial crisis and don’t even think of buying an electronic gadget for their children’s digital learning,” said M. P Shajan, former member of Puthanvelikara panchayat, a village in Ernakulam district and a volunteer of M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation.
Though he proposed to set up a multi-purpose digital resource centre in the village which can benefit students as well, the plan had to be dropped as majority of students can’t access the facility due to lack of gadgets.
The digital divide is evident in rural areas where most of the students are from financially deprived families. Children from these families who are good at studies are worried over their inability to attend digital classes.
“Though some teachers have started online classes and giving regular assignments and project works, I am unable to attend. Though my father has a smart phone, it is not possible to use it for assignments and projects as we can’t regularly recharge the internet connectivity,” said Abhirami Rajeev, a high school student from Edavanakkad, a coastal village in Ernakulam.
However, considering the students’ poor access, most of the government-aided schools have dropped the virtual classroom proposal. “The assistant education officer asked us about the students’ capacity to access smart phone or computer while discussing about the plans for the new mode of digital classes. But, more than half of the students don’t have access to digital gadgets. Most of them come from very poor financial families. Hence it has been decided not to conduct virtual classes,” said CR Latha, head mistress at Elanthikkara High School in Ernakulam district.
Though compared to other states, Kerala has high number of households with internet connectivity the digital revolution is yet to reach most of the families in rural areas.
“When preparing the list of students for Class 10 board examination recently, I noticed that only three or four students’ parents are in government service or have good job. All others are daily labourers, agriculture workers or small scale traders. Similar is the situation in other schools in rural areas. The disparity in online classes should not lead to inequality in education as most of the students from impoverished families are very good at studies,” remarked a teacher who doesn’t want to be identified....