It is 3 pm and Karamjeet, along with his two sisters, is walking to Rinku’s house, one of the village boys who possesses a smart phone. At Rinku’s house, the three siblings take turns to take down notes from the videos sent by their teachers on Rinku’s phone.
In the remote Morni village, in Badisher, this is how students manage their online classes. The area not only faces interrupted network, but majority of population doesn’t have smart phones.
Karamjeet’s father, Om Prakash, said that being a farmer he cannot afford a smart phone, compelling him to send his kids to a village boy’s house who has a smart phone. While Karam has just moved in class 11, his two sisters are in classes 5 and 7. “I had some savings but due to the lockdown, all of them were spent on survival only. Now, I am planning that the produce of tomatoes is sold by a month. With that money, I will purchase a smart phone for the kids, so that they don’t have to travel so much to access a smart phone,” said Om Prakash.
“I just use this simple phone but it is not of any use to kids. So, till the time the sale of tomatoes takes place, I am sending kids to the house of the boy who has a smartphone. We had never thought that studies will be done only on touch phone,” he added.
From the same village, Bhawna, Mamta, Kulwanti, and Deepak, students of classes 10, 8 and 6 respectively, from Government school, Koti also travel to Amri Devi, a relative’s place to access a smart phone.
Devi, who herself is a college student of Government Polytechnic college, Morni, said that once she is done with her own online classes, she tells the kids to come over with their notebooks. “In the evening, all of them have to work in the farm. So, during the afternoon, they all come with their notebooks and copy from the notes sent by the teacher and the lesson videos on my phone. It is a struggle, but that is the only way to learn things. Since April, the classes have been in online mode,” she said.
Apart from access, recharge too is a problem for these kids. “Since we don’t have WiFi facility and data packs are exhausted very quickly due to the heavy videos, recharge is a big problem. I have been taking money from my father for the recharge,” she said.
Principal of Government Senior Secondary School, Koti, Pawan Jain, said that almost 20 per cent students from his school do not have a smart phone in the family and can’t even afford them. There are about 190 students in the school.
“Till now, they have just been jotting down notes by going to different houses to access a smart phone. But network and recharge are also a problem, their internet data pack finishes in four five days. We have registered these phones numbers in our groups from where these students study,” he said.
Kumkum, a student of Class 9, has been facing a tough time, since the display of an old smartphone that an aunt lent her, was spoilt. She has been unable to study for the past month and a half.
“Then my aunt gave the phone she was using, and put her sim in a normal phone. But then recharge was a problem. Now my uncle is taking of that expense,” said Kumkum, whose father is bedridden due to an illness.
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