Shiv Kumar, a gardener who works for an affluent family in Sector 21, has been facing his employer’s ire regularly these days for not having a mobile phone on his person.
Kumar recalls, how while running an errand for his employers a few days back, he was shouted at when his employer could not call him to add milk to their grocery list.
Despite it being a cause of vexation at work, Kumar says he has to leave his mobile phone at home so that his three young daughters can participate in online classes. “It is a small price to pay for their education, because I cannot afford to buy a new phone for them at this point in time. The three will just have to share the only smartphone in the house,” says Kumar.
While several parents and student have complaints regarding the excessive use of screen time for educational purposes now— the masses struggle to overcome the digital divide and ensure that their children have access to smartphones and screen time, so that they can pursue their education per usual.
“It is not an easy transition for our children. Only about 10 percent of students have their own mobile phone, forget laptops and computers. The rest have to use their parent’s phones, who sometimes come back late in the evening, so the students can only attend their classes then,” says the principal of Government High School at Manimajra.
“But all our teachers are doing their best to stay in touch with students, adapting to their constraints and calling them when necessary to figure out what challenges they are facing,” says the principal from Manimajra. Students from the school excelled in the class 10 examinations, achieving a pass percentage of more than 95 per cent. “This was achieved because of the attention we paid towards each and every student in class, but with virtual education, this might be harder to achieve,” adds the principal.
Government school teachers and principals are making extra efforts to stay in touch with their students and ensure that they have access to a digital medium, asmost of the students belong to working class families, or lower middle income groups.
A principal of a school near EWS Colony at Dhanas, states that the schools has been receiving demands from students for updating their internet data packs. “In the beginning we updated their data on our own but now the demand is so much we have enrolled some NGOs and charitable organisations to help us out,” says the principal.
However, despite all efforts, some students say that they are struggling to concentrate on their studies. “When I am at home, there are so many distractions. I have to help my mother our or go out for some errand. Moreover, sharing the phone with my sibling means I can never really get enough time to access the content sent to us,” says Divya, a resident of Dhanas village, whose father is a causal labourer.
Divya adds that reading in the small screen of her phone makes her head ache and she has no motivation to continue her studies. “My parents also do not care if I study, they rather say that I should give back the phone to my father who needs it more than I do. We cannot afford to buy another smartphone,” adds Divya.
As for Shiv Kumar, the gardener who leaves his phone home for his three daughters to access online classes— he says, he has asked his employers to donate an old phone to him. “I would be grateful if they do, but if not, I guess I will just have to leave my phone with my daughters for now and face memsahib’s anger if need be. What else can I do?” says Kumar.
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