Gurugram: Community volunteers to help school students get access to smart phones for online classes

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Published on Aug 28, 2020 11:41 PM IST
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BySadia Akhtar, Gurugram

The directorate of school education is planning to launch an initiative that seeks to bridge the digital divide, by appointing community volunteers who’ll ensure that students who don’t have access to smart phones can remain in touch with their teachers.

As a part of the initiative, titled ‘Shiksha Mitr’, teachers would need to identify one member from the student’s family or the neighbourhood with an internet-enabled smart phone. The owner of the phone will then share it with the student for a certain duration of the day so that he or she can be in touch with the teachers for the online classes. The department has directed all teachers to identify and register a Shiksha Mitr for every student in their class. Additionally, teachers are also supposed to carry out local awareness campaigns so that students as well as the community are aware of the role of these volunteers.

In a directive shared with district education officers on Thursday, the department said that each teacher would need to ensure that one Shiksha Mitr is assigned to every student who doesn’t have access to digital devices for online classes. “In order to minimise the digital divide among students of government schools, it is recommended that a Shiksha Mitra is assigned to every student to ensure that they are connected to their teachers and the department’s e-learning initiatives,” the department stated in its directive, which is yet to be communicated with the teachers of the students.

As per the department’s directive, a Shiksha Mitr can be any parent, sibling, relative, neighbour or community volunteer, who has an internet-enabled smart phone and is in a position to lend the phone to the student daily for some time.

Asha Miglani, principal of Government Model Sanskriti Senior Secondary School, Sector 43, said there were students who either didn’t have access to smart phones or were struggling with internet connections. “While students in middle school can still reach out to their classmates to keep a tab on lessons, connecting with students of primary classes has been relatively difficult during the lockdown. While we have been encouraging them to borrow phones from neighbours or parents for lessons, there has been a significant lag in learning. Through the new initiative, we are hoping to cover all students in a more formal manner,” said Miglani.

Sangeeta Chaudhary, district elementary education officer-cum-district project coordinator, said that teachers had been facing issues since the online database for registering details was under stress. “There are certain households where students don’t have a TV or a mobile phone. In other households, only one parent has a mobile phone. As parents were home during the complete lockdown, children could access smart phones but since people are getting back to work now, children are not able to log in as regularly as before. Keeping these issues in mind, we decided to designate community volunteers for students,” said Chaudhary.

Manjubala, an English teacher at the Government Model Senior Secondary School in Sector 4/7, said that while directions regarding the new initiative had not been shared so far, these volunteers were expected to act as a bridge between the school and students. “Some students have been facing access issues due to the lack of smartphones at home. So far, we had been making calls and asking such students to take notes from other children in their neighbourhood. With the new initiative, we hope to get support from local volunteers who will share their smartphone with our students on a daily basis. This will, hopefully, ensure regular engagement with lessons,” she said.

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