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Netizens, NGOs donate smartphones to help marginalised students with online classes

By Kainat Sarfaraz, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON AUG 10, 2020 11:30 PM IST

Fourteen-year-old Yuvika, a Class 10 student of a Delhi government school in Dakshinpuri, was worried when her online classes began. “I have two other siblings and one of them is in Class 8. Sometimes we have our online classes at the same time and there is only one low-end smartphone in the family. Due to this, we end up missing classes and often can’t interact with our teachers,” she said.

As the Covid-19 crisis caused classes to move completely online, school-going children from marginalised backgrounds were left in the lurch due to lack of devices and Internet access. While the Delhi government has announced a semi-online education model keeping such students in mind, they are still facing issues as they often receive notes on WhatsApp and need them for assignments.

Yuvika’s father, who worked as a ward boy at a hospital in Malviya Nagar, has been unemployed ever since the lockdown came into effect. Her mother also lost her job as a domestic worker. “We were missing our online classes but buying another phone was not on our priority list,” said Yuvika. “I borrowed notes from friends but it was not a permanent solution.”

On Saturday, she received a new smartphone after a group of strangers raised money for her on the Internet. “Now I can take time to focus on the lessons instead of worrying about finishing them quickly. I think it will help me learn better,” she said.

For the past couple of weeks, Ankit Gupta, a content writer and an Urdu poet based in Delhi, has been raising money to get smartphones for marginalised children to ensure their studies are not disrupted. “Help has poured in from various sources and we have been able to arrange smartphones for 36 students so far. We got to know about most of them through common contacts or news stories. As many as 18 smartphones will be delivered after August 15 since they are for students in Srinagar where the lockdown has been extended till August 15,” he said.

Gupta is not the only one attempting to bridge the learning gap by providing smartphones to students. Saajha, a non-governmental organisation which works in the public schools’ sector, also started a collaborative initiative asking people to donate their extra smartphones and deliver them to needy students after refurbishing them.

“While surveying over 2,000 parents, we found out that nearly 40% did not have access to even WhatsApp. The first phase of our campaign lasted less than a week and we were able to collect 12 phones through Cashify, a platform that deals with used phones. These phones will be delivered to female students as their education is often not prioritised. If there is one phone in the family, it is often used by male students,” Saransh Vaswani, the director of Saanjha, said.

Vikaspuri resident Rajni, a Class 12 student at a government school nearby, is one such student. “I have to go to my friend’s place to attend classes. My brother, who is in Class 10, has borrowed a smartphone from our neighbour for his studies. I get to use that phone sometimes. But if I get a phone of my own, accessing the Internet anytime and going through my lessons will be easier.”

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