Delhi government school kids lose out on lessons due to digital divide

Jyoti Mohare, field manager, JOSH, said parents often found it expensive to recharge their phones with earnings coming to a halt.
Representational image (File photo)
Representational image (File photo)

NEW DELHI: Preeti, a resident of Trilokpuri in East Delhi, is clueless as to how she can help her son access the tasks set by his teacher at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi-run school where he is enrolled in during the lockdown.

“I do not have a smartphone. This means we cannot be a part of the WhatsApp group started by his teacher. So he cannot do the tasks other kids do. I am teaching him what I can. He was due to start class 6,” said Preeti, a homemaker. Her husband works as a security guard.

Teachers often place calls to communicate tasks to students who do not have smartphones. “But we cannot take feedback on their assignments as the tasks are usually to submit photos or videos. Most parents of children enrolled in our school do not have smartphones. So a significant number of children are losing out on tasks we set for them,” said an MCD school teacher.  

A rapid assessment survey of 10 MCD schools in Trilokpuri conducted by NGO Joint Operation for Social Help (JOSH) showed almost all the schools had less than 50 per cent of the total number of students in the class registered for the WhatsApp groups. Even among those who were part of the group, few participated in the group by submitting their assignments, the survey showed.

Jyoti Mohare, field manager, JOSH, said parents often found it expensive to recharge their phones with earnings coming to a halt. “People are also relying on their smartphones for accessing rations through PDS. Under these circumstances, how will a family with one smartphone manage?”
JOSH interviewed 10 parents from each school, for the survey.

Vidya, a homemaker, who has three kids — two in Delhi government-run schools in classes 10 and 12 and one who has finished her class 5 in an MCD-run school — said her children struggled to access class discussions on the WhatsApp groups with the one smartphone the family-owned.

“How would three kids successfully understand lessons from one phone? They take turns to use it. They are also unable to follow instructions through this medium and say they do not understand the tasks,” said Vidya.

Santosh, another resident of Trilokpuri, said her daughter could not access lessons for a few days as she ran out of data. “Also, my daughter can barely follow the instructions from WhatsApp,” said Santosh who is a homemaker. Her husband works as a plumber.           

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The New Indian Express