UMERKOTE: As schools remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online classes are a distant dream for most of the kids in Nabarangpur district. The absence of smartphones and seamless internet access has affected the education of around 70 per cent of children in the tribal-dominated district. This has led to many kids leaving studies and helping their parents to eke out a living by gathering forest produce.
Here is a factsheet: Around 37 per cent of villages in the district have no internet access. Some of the hamlets listed under ‘Village under available mobile services’ complain of internet speeds at no more than 10 kbps. Adding to the woes, most of the residents in these villages are either farmers or daily wage labourers who can’t afford smartphones.
As per district education office (DEO) reports, only 10 per cent of students are attending online classes, putting the future of the rest, who have not attended physical classes for more than a year now, at risk. A survey revealed that the student strength in Class 1-8 in schools of Umerkote, Nabarangpur, Jharigam, Dabugaon and Raighar blocks is a dismal 200-300. Parents of around 30-35 students use smartphones, fewer still allow their wards to use the devices and the rest don’t have proper internet pack to attend the classes.
Making matters worse is the persistently bad network connectivity in the district. The children of daily wagers and small-time farmers with no smartphones, mostly from Class 3-6, are engaged in collecting firewood to help their parents instead of attending classes.
As per the weekly report from the DEO, of 2,12,274 students in Class 1-10, only 28,895 have smartphones. Of the students having access to smartphones, 21,625 attended literature classes, 20,720 maths and 142 English. Around 4,615 students in urban areas belonging to Class 9 and 10 attended general science classes.
The pandemic also saw reduced number of enrollments in schools. Parents lament that despite interest in studies, their kids are unable to avail online classes due to constraints. During the visit of School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash in October 2019, district officials reported that 2,52,863 students were enrolled in Class 1-10. In 2020-21 academic year, the number dropped to 2,31,000 and subsequently to 2,03,156 in the current year.
Contacted, block education officer (BEO) of Umerkote Bikash Chandra Sarkar said the number of students attending online classes will increase as schools reopen gradually and new enrollments begin.
Total students (Class 1-10) 2,12,274
Students with smartphones 28,895
Villages without internet 37 pc
Total enrollment (Class 1-10)