Rinku Devi (33), a domestic help, is worried how she will get a new phone for her three children who study in classes IX, X and XII at a government school, once she rejoins work. With schools shut amid the pandemic and online classes resuming after summer break, Devi said her children are often marked absent as their classes take place at the same time.
“I have not been going to work because of coronavirus, but I will soon, and I take the phone with me. With rent and living expenses, I cannot afford another phone now… arguments often break out between the children over the phone as well…,” she said.
While she earns Rs 6,000 a month working at one home, her husband, a tailor, is out of work. The family lives in Lajpat Nagar.
The situation finds an echo among several lower income families in the city, with children facing trouble accessing online classes because of lack of regular access to adequate internet and devices that support such classes.
Raju Kumar (37), an auto driver who lives in Khanpur, had only one phone and it wasn’t working. He was worried how his children, in classes VI and VIII at a government school, would be able to study. “Initially, I gave my neighbour’s number to the school so my children could access assignments and classes that are held a few hours every week. After a point, it became inconvenient for them. So I had to buy another phone,” he said.
After working overtime, making Rs 1,000 a day and borrowing money from relatives, he eventually collected Rs 8,000 to buy a smartphone. “Now, I need Rs 500 for a SIM and recharge… Once I get that, they can resume their classes,” said Kumar, who was without a job during the lockdown and used to earn around Rs 6,000 until March.
At Nehru Place, known for reasonable tech products, shopkeepers said there has been a rise in demand for second-hand phones and tablets, but the products are out of stock.
Ram (29), who works at a mobile store, said, “Many people come looking for second hand phones but we don’t have any at the moment as no one is selling old products.”
For some, buying a second-hand phone is an expensive affair too. Afsana (30), a resident of Trilokpuri, said, “It would be better if normal classes begin as not everyone has smartphones.” While her 18-year-old daughter dropped out in class IX, her two other children are in classes V and XI in a government school. They couldn’t attend classes for a few days as Afsana was unable to recharge the phone.
“My husband, a rickshaw driver, is the only earning member and just about manages Rs 200-250 a day. This goes towards food and paying rent… if anything is left, it goes in recharge,” she said.
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