From the start of the pandemic in India, students or school-going children were most affected by the situation. India has laws for almost everything but its drawbacks were seen during this pandemic.
When the lockdown was declared, every school, college, and institute was shut down and classes were taken online. Online education was introduced but has the government thought about the students staying in rural areas where they don’t have access to good internet connectivity and some don’t even have a smartphone or computer or laptop?
This has exposed the digital divide in India. Children studying in government schools were at loss. In a recent survey, 80 percent of government schools students in Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh didn’t even receive any educational materials during the first lockdown.
There are a lot of problems faced by rural students. Limited access to technological devices stands tall among them.
For digital teaching, the availability of digital devices is very much important for students as well as the teachers. Not every student in rural areas has access to a laptop or computer or has a proper smartphone or phone which can be used for long learning hours. Recharging with data packs becomes a costly affair for teachers and students. So learning becomes limited.
Also, urban schools use digital platforms of learning in their regular classes as a form of extensive learning. They are equipped with the knowledge of its functioning, but rural schools rely on the traditional form of teaching and they don’t have knowledge of advanced teaching techniques. So, shifting from traditional to digital overnight is impossible. Teachers and students both need training and user-friendly platforms to make them familiar with digital technology.
Further, for online learning or E-learning, good internet connectivity is the most important facility to have. Without proper internet, one cannot access anything online. The development is slow in respect to its which is a hurdle for rural students.
The gender divide has also been quite visible. According to Internet and Mobile Association of India report, 67% of men had access to the internet in 2019 while 33% for women. The figures drastically change for rural areas where men stand at 72% and 28% for women.
These points can be put forward by the recent incident which was seen in Ladakh’s Chushul constituency where students urged the government to install 4g connectivity for accessing online education. Due to the internet’s inaccessibility, they were unable to register for covid vaccination. Kochok Stanzin, the councilor of the local Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council(Leh) of Chushul said that VSAT network was installed in 2019 to connect panchayats digitally but it works for only 8-10 people. He further added, “ There’s trouble accessing the internet if more people connect. Army, ITBP deployed here to connect to the same Wi-Fi source as students and villagers do. Residents keep asking me to set up 4G mobile towers in the region, mainly so that there’s no hindrance on students’ education.”
Because of this problem, many innovative ideas have been seen by village teachers like Ghanshyambhai, a teacher in Janan village, Gujarat has found a new way of teaching. Because of covid, social distancing, and everything closed, he has started teaching through the public announcement system of village panchayat to share stories, songs, guidelines for parents and students, and many more.
Teachers are coming forward to help parents with internet recharges and by providing books and amenities. The loss faced by rural students than the urban students is much higher. Students in villages are deprived of education which is resulting in promotion to higher class as they cannot sit for exams, their years are lost, the beautiful time of school teaching, interacting with teachers, making friends is lost. Being at home makes them anxious about their futures, the urge to study to do something is lost.
Now, the main question arises that “Is law’s in India are enough?”, before making any decisions isn’t it the work of a government to look after every pros and con. Every child is the future of India who will take the country forward and make it a better place.
This pandemic has shown us the current scenario of our country. The imbalances between rural and urban, men and women, rich and poor. Currently expanding online learning in this digital divide will create nots in the current educational systems, thereby increasing inequity in the educational system.
Visual by: Raysham Powdel
Article by Sroweta Kar, The North-Eastern Chronicle