Education in lockdown: Poor internet connectivity shadows online classes, many students walking to reception areas
With the government trying all options for education from online, to television classes through community radio, online education has not got the desired response due to poor internet connectivity in the remote areas of the hilly districts in the state.
Many times students had to trek for a few kilometres in certain areas to get a proper signal so that they could attend classes or submit their assignments online.
In the Bangaan region of Uttarkashi district, students have to trek around 10 to 12 km from their homes to a hilltop in Kotadhar area where they get mobile connectivity from the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh to join the online classes. Earlier this month, the locals from the region wrote to the prime minister demanding proper network connectivity in the age of Digital India.
Anish, a ten-year-old student from Silla village in the district shared a video talking about his problems with the district administration where he said that due to the lack of mobile network in the village, he has to walk into the forests where he can get a signal for online classes.
“Our village is one of the places where basic communication facilities are missing and villagers have to walk towards the forests at the time where they get signal on their phones. Sometimes it rains when we are outside and we are not able to study. Students are the ones who are suffering the most who have to travel 3-4 km at times during the lockdown to attend online classes,” said Anish.
The situation is similar in the bordering district of Pithoragarh where online classes failed to pick up as most areas do not have network connectivity or the guardians are not able to purchase smarts phones due to lack of money with them.
AK Jukariya, chief education officer of Pithoragarh said, “We started online classes for all 214 secondary and higher secondary schools in the district but only half of the schools could pick up it due to lack of network connectivity.”
Along with poor network connectivity is the added cost of procuring smartphones so that children can have access to online education.
Govind Singh Bhandari, president of Rajkiya Shikshak Sangh in Pithoragarh said, “Many parents who were told that online classes will be starting failed to purchase smartphones due to lack of money. Most parents who send their children to government schools cannot afford smartphones.”
Kishan Ram, a daily wage labourer from Tipalkot village in the district said, “Since the imposition of lockdown I have not gotten steady work or income. I have requested my neighbour to let my three daughters use his smartphone so that they can continue studying, but it mostly depends on his will and availability of network in our village.”
Villagers from Betalghat area, a remote area in Nainital district said that mobile network is not balanced across the village and they get signal only in the upper reaches.
Deepak Budhani, a resident of Unchakot village in Betalghat said that his house is in the lower part of the village while good signal can be reached only in the upper reaches of the village, so children are forced to trek till a particular point to study.
Since the starting of the lockdown, with the aims that each and every child in the Himalayan state is connected to education and regular classes, Uttarakhand education department started classes through community radio, internet, Whatsapp and classes via Doordarshan on television.
Mukul Sati, additional state project director for Samagra Sikhsha Abhiyan had said that community radio was chosen for primary classes as internet connectivity is not strong in the remote areas of the state and online education is not always possible.
In April, the state education department started live classes for Maths, Chemistry, Biology through Doordarshan for classes 9 to 12. The state education department had also started animated lessons for students through a mobile application named ‘Sampark Didi’, to keep the students engaged in studies in an interesting manner during the lockdown.
(with inputs from Vipin Negi in Uttarkashi, BD Kasniyal in Pithoragarh and Ankur Sharma in Haldwani)