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No smartphones, exhausted internet data turn barrier for online study

While some students do not possess a smartphone, others are dealing with the internet related issues amid the lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana | By Harvinder Kaur, Ludhiana
UPDATED ON MAR 31, 2020 11:35 PM IST

Though education secretary Krishna Kumar had recently directed schoolteachers to teach and give assignments to students via online medium, its implementation still remains a distant dream as many students are facing challenges in accessing the content online.

While some students do not possess a smartphone, others are dealing with the internet related issues amid the lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

No smartphones and exhausted internet data are therefore the two major barriers to teaching online in the present times when students are confined to their houses as a precautionary measure against the Covid-19.

As the pending exams of the Punjab School Education Board have been postponed, the government schoolteachers are now using various digital platforms such as Whatsapp, Youtube and tele-calling to give revision assignments to the students.

Punjab education minister Vijay Inder Singla on Monday announced further postponement of Classes 8, 10 and 12 examination. There are around 1,500 government schools, including schools at primary, middle and secondary levels, in the district with majority students belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS). It therefore raises doubts on how online teaching can be applicable here where students don’t possess smartphones or face internet issues.

Explaining how teachers are dealing with the challenge and covering even those kids who do not have a smartphone, district mentor for science, Jasvir Singh, said that out of 100 students, there around 40 students who do not have access to online materials. To teach these kids, teachers are using tele-calling, which means they are making phone calls to individual students, said Singh.

“While there a few who possess simple phones, there are many others who are unable to access the content online as their internet data has exhausted. For such students, the teachers have been making individual calls and explaining lessons to them. They are also clearing their doubts on calls, “ added Singh.

He further said that although the process is challenging, but they are focused towards their aim is to cover all the students.

Ravinder Kaur, an English teacher at Government Senior Secondary School, Nupur Bet, said she has formed broadcast groups on Whatsapp to deliver content to students.

“While the department gave the directions regarding online teaching last week only, I had been sending worksheets, bullets points and important links since long time to help students perform well in the board exams,” she said.

On teaching kids without a smartphone, Kaur said, “There are two students in my class who have no access to a smartphone. I call them to discuss topics and answer their queries on the call itself.”

Arshpreet Kaur, a student of Class 10 of Girls Senior Secondary School, Sidhwan Bet, said among a total of 32 students in her class, around 8 students do not have a smartphone.

“While we are being given assignments on Whatsapp and get our queries answered there, students without access to smartphones have been asked to take their classmate’s help, and in case of doubts, they have been told to call the teacher,” she said.

District mentor for English and social science, Subodh Verma, said the students in the new session will soon be taught soon via Whatsapp.

“The education department is currently formulating the syllabus for the new session, which will be taught through Whatsapp groups. For teaching a subject, we are dividing different chapters into portable document format (PDF) and sending it to the students. We are working hard to ensure that this lockdown period turns to be productive for the students,” he said.

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