The prevailing COVID-19 health crisis has adversely impacted the education of disadvantaged children with 68% of enrolled students in Odisha being deprived of virtual classes due to lack of access to smart phones and internet connectivity, a study has pointed out.
‘The Paused Classroom’, a report on understanding the educational situation specifically pre-school and elementary education during COVID-19 in Odisha by ‘Save the Children’, stated that out of 67,128 government elementary schools in the State, only 27.68% have initiated online education so far. The number of children who attend online classes through the Smartphone was 31.95% per cent.
The report quoting State’s school and mass education department projected a grim picture of the online mode of education being followed by the government for the lower class students.
Though the government has reopened physical classes for Class-10 and Class-9 students, the students of lower classes are still banking on online classes in the current academic session.
At least 80 per cent parents of children in Malkangiri, Kandhamal, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Deogarh districts do not have a Smartphone whereas 40 per cent of parents in Kandhamal and Malkangiri districts do not have a regular mobile phone, the ‘Paused classroom’ report said.
As many as 80% of parents have no mobile phone in Malkangiri, Kandhamal, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Deogarh districts while28% of government elementary schools have initiated online education. Only 33% of students attending online classes, it stated.
More than 20% (11,000) villages in Odisha out of 51,311 do not have mobile phone connectivity. The State has just 28.22 internet subscribers for a population of 100, compared to the national average of 38.02. The survey report further says that the number of internet subscribers is 16 per 100 people in villages, whereas it is 83.3 in urban areas, the report informed citing the Economic Survey, 2018-19,
The Covid-19 pandemic has enhanced the structural disparities between rural and urban areas. It has divided the students as haves and have-nots, developing a feeling of self-exclusion among the disadvantaged students, it said.
This also has a grave impact on the education of disadvantaged children by putting restrictions on the traditionally practiced classroom-based teaching and learning in schools, compelling these institutes to shift to remote-based or digital learning platforms for both teaching and student assessments. However, there are many structural and institutional issues which hamper even these virtual digital learning platforms.
“If there is only one phone in the family, normally, the earning member of the family has to carry the phone while going out to work. In such cases if a family has more than two children, then how does one will decide, who gets to attend classes, assuming the phone is accessible to the children. The major challenge of online digital learning is the disparity in access — from electricity and internet connections to devices like computers or smart phones”, the report concluded.