CHENNAI: As the pandemic lays bare the inequalities deeply entrenched in our social construct while we fight it, the issues it presents us are more prominent than what meet our eyes on normal days.
When the kids in the urban setup are glued to the screens, getting their daily dose of lessons and activities, students from rural towns and villages aspiring to crack competitive exams are finding it difficult to study online due to low bandwidth and fluctuating internet connections.
“Many of my students do not have good internet access or compatible devices. It takes about 10-20 minutes for them to join a webinar and they keep getting disconnected during the sessions,” says a teacher, who trains government school students in Tiruvallur district.
He adds that when a group of teachers, including him, tried to recharge students’ internet connection, they still couldn’t make it to classes as they had poor signal reception.
With the coaching centres sending several study materials and holding sessions everyday, students, especially from the districts of Tiruvannamalai, Namakkal and other rural parts of the districts have now begun to urge institutions to compress the size (gigabytes) of the files they share.
Students, who are training for theses exams in cities have been pushed back to their native towns and villages since the start of the lockdown, with online classes being the only way they could complete their training.
S Bharathi of Karuvepalan-kurichi village in Cuddalore district, who is pursuing her TNPSC class in Chennai says, “I try to download most of my study materials in the early hours everyday when nobody else is using the internet and skip all the online coaching sessions. I call my friends and keep myself abreast.’ She further adds that as the lockdown keeps extending, it hampers the spirits of every aspirant.
“I have to walk half a km from my house to get proper internet connection. Even there, the materials download very slowly. Forget the idea of live-streamed classes. Will I attend them on the road?” questions Chitra*, a medical aspirant from Peerkangaranai in Kancheepuram district.
Each of the study material that is required for the students to prepare is at least three to five gigabytes shared in websites for students, says K Kamaraj of Kamaraj IAS Academy in Anna Nagar adding that, “The students constantly complain of internet connectivity. We are addressing it during each of the sessions.”
Madhu*, a government-aided school student from a village near Madhuranthakam says that she used to go to a local internet cafe before the lockdown. “The signal is always bad in my area, and with no internet cafes around, I am using just my school books to prepare for engineering entrance exams. I want get into a good college in Chennai,” she says with hope.
However, some students are taking screenshots of entire materials and sharing it with others. “We compress files prior to sending it to the students, after several students from the rural places began to raise issues in downloading it,” says R Mathivanan, who runs a coaching institute in Tiruchy.
NEET training on Kalvi TV
Following many requests, officials with the State government’s education channel -- Kalvi TV -- have decided to broadcast NEET programmes to help students prepare for the examination. The videos, which are being shot by the subject teachers, will be telecasted from May 20.