No smartphones, no tabs: Thousands of poor students miss out on online classes in Kashmir
Srinagar: Tucked away in a quaint corner of Baramulla, Kathian Wali village still lives in the past. Having access to smartphones is still a distant dream for many adults, let alone children. Online classes are unheard of and getting access to them is next to impossible.
Sample this: Three siblings studying in First, third, and fourth standard at Government Primary School Gujjar Pati in Kathian Wali, have been missing out on their classes ever since the schools were shut.
“Their father is a daily-wage laborer, whose hand to mouth existence makes it difficult for him to have a smartphone. Arranging daily meals is in itself a big challenge. In such a situation, how can he afford to get a smartphone for his children?” a local asked.
The total enrollment of the students in this school is 59. Of whom, around 40 don’t have access to smartphones.
This is not an isolated case just “Our two daughters study in the same school. They are also clueless ever since the schools were shut. The only option for deprived people like us is to wait till the storm will pass,” their mother said.
Even if some parents of the students’ family have phones, they work as tourist guides, porters, or pony riders in the nearby tourist spot, Gulmarg.
“Hence, they are away from homes, and cannot help the children during the online classes,” the local said.
A local tutor said that the community classes helped poor students navigate the crisis last year. “However, due to the fast spread of Covid this year, the chances of conducting community classes seem bleak,” he said.
Last year the government had promised to distribute tabs among the poor students. But it remained a pipedream. Publicity hullabaloo apart, nothing was done on the ground.
In view of the sharp spike in Covid-positive cases, the government has shut all schools till April 30.
“All schools in J&K shall continue to remain closed for imparting on-campus/in-person education to the students of all classes (i.e., up to and including Class 12), till 30.04.2021,” reads an order by Simrandeep Singh, member Secretary State Executive Committee.
Educationist, BA Dar said the education has gone for a toss in the ongoing Covid situation. “It is a bigger challenge for the students from poor family backgrounds who don’t have smartphones or internet connections to keep up with online learning like their city-dwelling peers,” he said.
“Even many teachers for that matter still don’t know how to use phones for online classes. The education department should have prepared itself beforehand and brought in a panel of pedagogists, who are well-versed with the subjects, and methods of teaching,” he said.
Dar said the experts could have prepared scripts of certain chapters from all the subjects. “Those scripts can be used by teachers as well as students. The government should get more serious and bring in TV, and radio as a medium to ensure everyone has an access to education irrespective of their status,” he said.
Joint Director(DESK), Central Abid Hussain said they are aware of the difficulties faced by poor students without gadgets and internet connectivity. “It is under discussion and we will come to a decision soon,” he told The Kashmir Monitor.