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Digital divide proves to be challenge for online education in rural areas

Stating that lack of access to technology is a major reason why students don’t attend classes, government school teachers in rural areas say less than 50 per cent of students attend digital classes.

Published: 14th September 2020 10:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th September 2020 10:05 AM   |  A+A-

E-classes, online education

Representational Image. ( Express Illustration)

Express News Service

VISAKHAPATNAM: The digital shift of classrooms is proving to be a disadvantage to students of government schools in rural and tribal areas of the state, as they do not have access to TVs or smartphones.The shift from in-classroom teaching to digital learning through the internet or TV became imminent in view of the Covid-19 outbreak. Though students of private schools and some government schools in urban areas have a smooth sailing, that doesn’t seem to be the case for most students in rural and tribal areas. Lack of access to the internet, smartphones and other required gadgets has increased peer pressure among students. Teachers too struggle to use technology they are not familiar with.

Government schools started online classes almost a month ago, with students placed in three categories based on the technology they have — high tech, low tech and no tech. Students in the ‘high tech’ category have a TV or smartphone, while ‘low tech’ is for those with a basic mobile phone, and the ‘no tech’ category is for students who have no gadgets to attend online classes.

Explaining how classes are conducted, RV Krishna, a mathematics teacher at the government school in Chodavaram of Visakhapatnam district, said they teach through Doordarshan for now, and students who don’t have a TV or smartphone are sent to attend classes with a nearby student who has one. For those who can’t attend online classes, worksheets are sent homes through ward volunteers, and later collected for assessment.

Stating that lack of access to technology is a major reason why students don’t attend classes, government school teachers in rural areas say less than 50 per cent of students attend digital classes. For those who have smartphones, lack of money to recharge phones, and poor signal prove to be a roadblock.

“There are about 40 students in each class, and of them, 25-30 have access to smartphones. However, hardly 10-12 students join Zoom calls as many do not have the money to recharge their mobiles with data or there is no proper network as they live in remote agency areas. Unfortunately, nothing is planned out for students who are not able to attend these classes,” said a teacher working at the government school in Narsipatnam of Vizag district.

Though the teachers are gradually getting familiar with teaching online, there are still concerns about how students will cope with the digital shift and lack of access to technology. Students’ parents are also concerned about what would happen if the pandemic continues and they cannot afford to provide technology to their children.

“The Covid outbreak has left us in the lurch in many aspects, especially finance. While we are struggling to make ends meet, the fact that we cannot provide enough for our kids is pestering us. Government education is a ray of hope for a better future for our kids. However, now that there is this digital shift, we are scared that they will end up missing out on education if the pandemic continues,” said Krishna Veni, a daily wage worker whose children are pursuing education at a government school.



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