VELLORE: With the digital gap wide apart in tribal hamlets located on hills in the State, many of the students may not be able to connect to the e-learning platforms the government has proposed to launch from 13 July.
Poor infrastructure and connectivity including power supply and telecommunication will also hit the students in having access to the e-learning platforms.
Activists point out that the School Education department’s decision to launch e-learning classes, through television channels, will not largely benefit the tribal students dwelling on far off hills because of inadequate infrastructure and connectivity.
"Several villages in the hills across Tamil Nadu do not even have power supply. The dwellers in the hamlets cannot use even television sets. Then how can the children learn through e-learning platforms," asks Tamil Nadu Tribals Association (TNTA) president P Dillibabu adding that one in ten tribal villages does not have electricity supply.
Telecommunication network, cable TV connections and DTH services are not well established in several of the tribal hamlets. "When the tribal villages are lacking in basic infrastructure, the children may not be able to get access to the e-learning platforms," notes Dillibabu, who is a former MLA.
Availability of television sets is another major factor that comes as a hurdle for the children. "Many of us have a small size TV freely distributed by the government when DMK was in power. I don’t know whether our children can view the contents clearly on the screen," says Margabandhu, a tribes man of Peenjamanthai hills in Vellore.
Interruptions in power supply will also deprive the children of the opportunity to learn through television channels as planned by the School Education department. The absence of interaction with the students and lack of monitoring at home as both the parents would leave home for work also come as handicaps leaving the tribal children in a disadvantageous position.
"The tribal children have learning difficulties. Even in class rooms most of them battle to learn making our task harder. If classes are handled on e-learning platforms, lack of interaction will leave them in a disadvantageous position," says K Mahalakshmi, a tribal school teacher in Tiruvannamalai.
Adverse weather conditions will also play havoc in hilly hamlets as power cables and television network cables will get snapped and lie unattended for days. DTH instruments will also get into repair during torrential showers or gusty wind in hills.
What the activists suggest is to supply the students with the printed textbooks and establish helplines for interactive purposes. "If textbooks are printed already, they should be supplied to the tribal students. They can learn alone or in groups in the neighbourhood. And if helplines are created, they can contact for clarifications and clearing doubts," urges Mahalakshmi who grooms the tribal children with passion atop Jawadhu Hills.