MPs highlight digital divide among students during Covid-19 pandemic

Express News Service
RANCHI: Looking into complaints staing that children studying in government schools are not able to attend online classes as there is only one smart phone in the household, which is taken away by their parents while going out for work, some districts in Jharkhand have taken an initiative of conducting classes in the evening or early in the morning when the parents are available at home.

According to officials in the state education department, the idea has actually worked and they have been able to increase the attendance by more than 20 per cent in each class.

As per the data available with the state government, over 65 per cent students enrolled with government schools have no access to the online classes which is being conducted centrally in Jharkhand. To facilitate educational activities for students at their homes during lockdown, digital classes for over 42 lakh students, right from Class-1 to Class-12, was started WhatsApp and Doordarshan all over the State.

“As there is shortage of mobile phones in most of the households, a survey was conducted to know what could be done for them. We came to know that it would be more convenient for them to attend the classes if it is conducted early in the morning or late in the evening after their parents return from work making mobile phones available for them,” said Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) Director Sailesh Chaurasia.

He added that as a result of which, flexibility was given to teachers to fix timing for classes as per the convenience of the students. “Now, teachers have started conducting online classes in the evening after 6 pm and early in the morning before 9 am, which actually has worked resulting into a significant increase in attendance of students,” said Chaurasia.

He added that as of now, it has been adopted by the schools in urban and semi-urban areas across the state and will be extended further to the rural areas where there is better mobile network facility. “Feasibility of this initiative is also being explored in the rural areas,” said the JEPC Director.

Teachers are also happy as they have been able to reach out to more students after they were given liberty to conduct classes as per the convenience of the students.

“Besides availability of smartphones, another problem was being faced by households having one or more children. As classes were being conducted at the same time, only one child was able to attend classes while another had to skip it even if he or she did not want to miss it. Now, we fix the timing as per the convenience of the children; one child attends class in the morning while another attends it in the evening,” said Principal of Government Middle School, Bariatu in Ranchi Naseem Ahmed.

He added that before fixing the classes, consent of children are also sought. “With this, we have been able to increase attendance by at least 20 per cent in each of the class,” said the principal.