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29% school students have no access to phone, Tripura govt mulls neighbourhood classes as alternative

Education minister Ratan Lal Nath told reporters that the survey, conducted among 3,22,297 students from all eight districts of Tripura during Ektu Khelo Ektu Padho classes, revealed 94,013 students didn’t have access to any sort of phone

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala |
Updated: August 9, 2020 7:36:58 pm
The survey revealed that 94,013 students didn’t have access to any sort of phone. Representational image/ file

A recent survey on school students of Tripura has found 29 per cent of them don’t have access to any sort of mobile phone, cable television or such connectivity through which they could be covered under online schooling in the times of corona.

Earlier in June this year, the state government started an innovative project ‘Ektu Khelo, Ektu Padho’ in the elementary education segment to make sure students don’t lose interest in studies and remain mentally upbeat. The scheme started after experimental schooling like online classes, recorded videos etc streamed via local cable television channels, social media faced hiccups among students in the hilly terrains and far flung village due to lack of access to such devices.

The new scheme was floated to engage students through activities like disseminating audio and video contents focused on hands-on learning activities, fun activities and games through WhatsApp or SMS services.

READ | Tripura college admission process goes online, no registration fee 

However, a recent survey has shown this initiative isn’t exempt from troubles a well. Education minister Ratan Lal Nath told reporters that the survey, conducted among 3,22,297 students from all eight districts of Tripura during Ektu Khelo Ektu Padho classes, revealed 94,013 students didn’t have access to any sort of phone. The survey responses came from students enrolled in 3,974 schools.

Among them, 1,11,618 students said they have access to smartphones, 1,16,666 students have access to basic phones and 94,013 don’t have any sort of phone. North Tripura district has 22,605 students without any phone access – the highest in the state, followed by Sipahijala with 18,833 students, Dhalai with 13,999 students and West Tripura with 13,909 students deprived of phone connectivity. Khowai district, on the other hand, was found to have the highest phone penetration; only 2,173 students in the district said they didn’t have any phone.

Out of 3.2 lakh students, 1,42,238 said they didn’t have access to any kind of television, rendering them unable to take the televised recorded lectures or live classes conducted by the education department. As an alternative, the state government has mulled to try neighbourhood classes as alternative to reach out to these students.

“Since these students can’t avail our ongoing classes, we have decided to start neighbourhood classes from August 18 with 1:5 teacher student ratio from next August 18,” the minister informed. On the issue, an official of the education department, who didn’t wish to be named, said that readership and learning engagement of students was increased through Notun Disha, a novel scheme of the state government to identify students as per their ability, in last two years.

However, during the COVID pandemic, total absence of classes since March poses a risk of reducing the achievement in readership and engagement, the official said adding that neighbourhood classes might prove a viable alternative till classes resume.

As per guidelines, a teacher would sit in an open space in the neighbourhood of a school, gather 3-5 students, sit with social distance among themselves and conduct classes. If the current situation continue, exams might be conducted in this mode, the official added.

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