With private and government schools moving to online mode of learning during the nationwide lockdown, unequal access to digital resources is posing a challenge to both students and teachers in Delhi. A class XII student of a government school in South Delhi has been attending daily classes organised by her school since April 1 on the Zoom app. However, she said out of the 37 students in her section, not more than 20 are attending classes.
“One of my classmates has a sister who is in the first year of college. Since the family has only one smartphone — belonging to their father, a tailor — and they have classes at the same time, she is unable to attend. Some others I have spoken to do not have smartphones; others said the daily internet data quota of their siblings’ or parents’ phone gets over even before the class begins,” she said.
While the classes are an initiative by her school, the Delhi government has also launched online classes, through Career Launcher, for class XII students across its schools on Monday.
It began with a one-and-a-half hour class each on English and Accountancy. Around 9,000 students registered for these classes, though there are 1.6 lakh Class XII children in these schools.
“Monday was just the first day of this initiative. With classes for different subjects starting, the numbers of those registered will increase. We will try to make more students attend this every week. We will be providing Rs 200 for data usage to all students who register, and directives have been issued to teachers to reach out to them. We are trying our best to do this systematically in stages,” said an education department official.
A teacher at a Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya — one of the exclusive resource-rich schools run by the government — said many students are missing from the Zoom classes she conducts in her personal capacity. “In my class of 29, there were 19 students on Monday. The situation is far more difficult in schools with a larger number of students, and those from even more marginal backgrounds. Many students in our schools are children of migrants and I’m most worried about finding out where they are right now. There is a student from a very poor family who I have not been able to get in touch with,” she said.
Many private schools in the city had begun online classes long before the government, but even here, children admitted under the economically weaker sections (EWS) quota are vulnerable.
While Sardar Patel Vidyalaya is conducting live classes on Zoom even for primary students, teachers are separately reaching out to such students to ensure they have access to the course material.
“After the Zoom classes, we upload assignments and study material to our Google Classroom module. For EWS
students who might have difficulty accessing the classes and modules, we are mailing and WhatsApping them individually and asking them to just copy these out in their notebooks. A big challenge is that we found that some younger children had already gone to their villages before the lockdown. Some are in areas with very little internet access. Education counsellors are conducting conference calls with these children. We are also recording the Zoom classes so they can be accessed later,” said a teacher.
Activists advocating for free internet have raised the issue of access to digital learning resources, and the Community Library Project has begun an “Internet Kholo” campaign to demand that the Delhi government provide free internet.
“An education portal with multiple access points like audio, video, read-only modes using compressed data, alongside widespread availability of free internet will do much to reach the vast majority of Delhi’s students who are Hindi-medium government-school educated,” said Mridula Koshy, director of the project.
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