TIRUNELVELI: The internet is still a luxury many people in India only dream of, and the pandemic has brought the digital divide to the fore. But nestled in a tiger reserve, a small village of Tirunelveli district tells a tale of determination to scale obstacles, quite literally, and catch up with the more privileged part of the world. Kaani village of Agasthiyarmalai is only connected to the internet through the 10 computers at the Government Tribal Residential School in Agasthiyar Kaani Kudiyiruppu.
The internet connection was only provided last week, and the computers are used by about 50 students of Classes 6 to 10. But earlier, when the pandemic forced schools to shut and classes to move online, students from Chinnamayilar, Mayilar and Agasthiyar went out of the region, to a spot up on the Western Ghats to study. The reason — it was graced with some internet access.
Their parents built them a shed with dry leaves there, and for the past three months, more than 15 school and college students have been taking a 15-minute walk up to their ‘spot’, where they used to stay from 8 am until classes end. “Earlier, we didn’t need the internet, but now, with online classes, it’s become a basic necessity,” said the mother of a Class 8 student who lives in the village within the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. College student Girija said many of her peers wrote their semester exams in the shed and sent their answer scripts to college.
Following their requests, and under the State government’s directions, the Adi Dravidar Tribal Welfare Department provided internet connections for the 10 computers at the school. Officials from Ambasamudram taluk said the connection was provided from the BSNL tower in Sorimuthu Ayyanar Temple, as the school is less than a kilometre away. “Students can now attend online classes and their parents can use the internet to apply for government benefits.
The Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department has provided internet connectivity at all government tribal schools, and the facility will soon be inaugurated by the State government,” said a source. The school’s principal, Malathi, said, “Earlier, teachers struggled to submit their reports, and had to visit a school in a nearby town to access the internet and complete their work. But amid the pandemic, the internet became a necessity. Students came to school for classes, but the forest officials had to take them to a nearby school in Ambasamudram for their online exams.
Now that we have internet access, not only students but also teachers will benefit. We are making arrangements to protect the cables from wild animals.” District Collector V Vishnu pointed out that this was the only school in the region that faced such a situation. “While the State government has introduced smart classes, the location of this school proved to be a challenge geographically, and we chose the best possible method to provide internet access to the students,” he explained.