Only 6 of 10 students in Delhi govt schools joined online classes during lockdown, shows govt data

Updated on Jun 19, 2020 08:01 AM IST

The Delhi government’s directorate of education (DoE) had last month asked all its schools to provide details of students with whom they were in regular touch during the lockdown, how many of them accessed virtual learning and how many could not be contacted at all.

The Delhi government started conducting online classes for class 12 students from April 6 and sending e-learning material or activities to those enrolled in classes nursery to eighth over WhatsApp or SMS.(Keshav Singh/HT file photo. Representative image)
The Delhi government started conducting online classes for class 12 students from April 6 and sending e-learning material or activities to those enrolled in classes nursery to eighth over WhatsApp or SMS.(Keshav Singh/HT file photo. Representative image)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Less than six out of 10 government school students in Delhi could access virtual learning--- either through online classes or WhatsApp and interactive voice response (IVR) technology--- during the first two months of the lockdown enforced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, data collated by the government from its 1,030 schools shows.

The Delhi government’s directorate of education (DoE) had last month asked all its schools to provide details of students with whom they were in regular touch during the lockdown, how many of them accessed virtual learning and how many could not be contacted at all.

The data was sought along with other inputs to draw “micro plans” for each school whenever the situation favours reopening them for students, officials with direct knowledge of the matter said.

A senior government official, requesting anonymity, said, “It’s been found that 77% of the around 1,500,000 students, or 1,155,000, enrolled in Delhi government schools remained in contact with the schools during the lockdown. But only 76% of these 1,155,000 students or 877,800 accessed virtual learning either through online classes or WhatsApp and IVR technology during this period. This effectively means 58.5% of total students enrolled in 1,030 government schools had accessed virtual learning.”

According to the data from the months of April and May, 23% of 1,500,000 students or 345,000 could not be contacted during this period. Officials at schools cited reverse migration and economic challenges faced by people during the lockdown as a major reason behind it.

Classes were suspended in Delhi schools on March 13 due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the city. The classes continued to remain suspended when the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 23 to contain the viral disease. The Delhi government started conducting online classes for class 12 students from April 6 and sending e-learning material or activities to those enrolled in classes nursery to eighth over WhatsApp or SMS.

The directorate of education last month began online mathematics classes for students of classes ninth and 10th in collaboration with Khan Academy, a non-profit educational organisation.

The Delhi government had also provided a subsidy of Rs 200 for internet packages to all its class 12 students who had registered for the online classes.

Several principals of government schools said the lack of devices and internet facilities remained a challenge for their students to access virtual education. “Despite the internet package, many of our students do not have smartphones or devices. Many students who had initially registered for the online classes but did not attend regularly. When we contacted them, they told us they do not get proper internet connection at homes or the mobile phones were not working properly. Many young students did not respond to the activities sent over WhatsApp or SMS’,” said the principal of a government boys’ senior secondary school in Karawal Nagar on condition of anonymity.

Among those who could not access e-learning amid the lockdown were two daughters of Ayyub, a mason. “My daughters (11 and 13 years) study in classes sixth and eighth in a government school in Jahangirpuri. They could not check the work sent by their school to students over WhatsApp as we do not have a smartphone. Their teachers had called many times and told them what to do at home over the call. They could not even complete that work also since our family has been struggling to make ends meet amid the lockdown. There is no work even now as well,” he said.

Explaining the reasons why 23% students could not be contacted during the lockdown, AK Jha, principal of a government co-ed school in Rohini, said, “Majority of the students who could not be contacted have left the city with their families amid the lockdown. When we could not contact them, we sought help from the students living in their neighbourhood and we were told that their houses were locked. Majority of these students are in primary classes. Also, many families did not update their contact numbers due to which they cannot be contacted now.”

Binay Bhusan, Director of the DoE, said the government schools will particularly focus on students who could not attend online classes or access online learning once the schools reopen. “We have asked all our schools to keep a track on students who cannot access e-learning so that we can draw our post lockdown school plans accordingly. Extra classes will be conducted for these students. Also, the government is working on how to track the students who are completely out of contact now to bring them back to the classes. Many of these students have left the city with their families amid the lockdown,” he said.

Education expert Shyama Chona said the only alternative in such a situation when so many students don’t have access to devices and internet is to run classes on television. “Majority of the households in India have televisions and the government can broadcast classes on television in case the situation does not improve in near future.The government should properly track all these students who were out of contact during the lockdown once the schools reopen. They will have to come out with ways for it,” she said.

The Delhi government had in April requested the union human resource development ministry to provide them slots on Doordarshan and air time on All India Radio (AIR) to broadcast classes for their students.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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