Nearly 40% students in K’taka lack devices for online classes: Minister

Published on Jun 29, 2021 12:27 AM IST

Bengaluru: Around 40% of students in Karnataka do not have access to mobile phone and other devices to take online classes, Karnataka’s education minister S Suresh Kumar said on Monday, leaving a significant number of children at a disadvantage in the state

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Bengaluru: Around 40% of students in Karnataka do not have access to mobile phone and other devices to take online classes, Karnataka’s education minister S Suresh Kumar said on Monday, leaving a significant number of children at a disadvantage in the state.

Kumar added, “61% students have some connection devices and 39% do not have any access.”

Most of these students, according to Kumar, are in rural or backward regions of the state and are deprived of the benefit of school, which their counterparts in urban areas or affluent households benefit from.

The poor access to devices emphasises the stark contrast of fortunes of residents of Karnataka, a state known for its prowess in technology and those who live in abject poverty.

The minister’s statements come at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the suspension of physical classrooms and increased dependence on online courses to help children cope with their syllabus and not lose a year.

Kumar said the education department was setting up android mobile banks in taluka headquarters where donors can give their unused or additional smartphones to help these children. He added that around 45,000 phones have been collected so far.

“No children should be kept away from learning,” Kumar said.

The minister said the department will contact parents of students who are unable to attend online classes and also request their neighbours to allow access to their televisions to these students so that they could learn from the audio-visual content created by the education department.

An expert committee led by cardiologist Dr Devi Prasad Shetty on June 22 submitted a 91-page interim report to the Karnataka government, recommending the reopening of schools and colleges in the state despite the looming threat of a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

The government-appointed technical advisory committee (TAC), in its recommendations, argued that education is the fundamental right of the child and stated that reopening physical schools would optimise learning, physical and mental health as well as for nutritional aspects of children.

“Any further delay in school reopening may push children into malnutrition, child labour, child marriage, child trafficking, begging etc., making their condition further worse,” according to the TAC report.

The government has decided to resume online classes from July 1 and is awaiting another report by the TAC on the third wave to reopen physical classes.

However, the government seems to lack concrete plans on how it proposes to bridge the gap between students who have access to mobile phones and those who don’t, in order to provide education to all sections of society.

The higher education department is conducting vaccination drives for students above the age of 18 to help resume physical classes.

Last Wednesday, the Karnataka government launched its ambitious 195-crore ‘Digi-learning’ initiative for higher education, which it hopes will bridge the gap between urban and rural geographies faced by students pursuing collegiate education.

The state government has also distributed 155,000 tablet PCs to students from across the state, amounting to 163 crore. The government said it had developed 2,500 smart classrooms at a cost of 27.77 crore and a Learning Management System (LMS) for 4.04 crore.

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