For Rajni, a 15-year-old resident of Indira Colony in Manimajra, school is not just for attaining academic education, but for briefly escaping the one room apartment that she shares with her parents and two younger brothers.
“School is good! The teachers are also nice. I get to meet my friends and walk back home with them, but nowadays, I am mostly stuck with household chores,” she says, speaking through the only cellular phone owned by her family.
Since the lockdown imposed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, most education institutions have turned to digital platforms to continue the academic term and share relevant notes and information with their students. However, for most of the students enrolled in the city’s government schools, accessing technology for education is a privilege they cannot afford.
“80 per cent of the children we teach do not have a private phone, let alone a laptop and access to internet. Hence, right now, we have no clue how we will begin teaching them. Digital learning is not a feasible option for these students,” says a principal of a government school in Manimajra.
An English teacher at a government school in Dhanas, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains that they have started to disseminate information to students through WhatsApp groups, but many students have been left out because they do not have access to internet. “In a class of forty, say twenty maximum have access to a screen and internet through which they can download the material we have forwarded. However, even they do not have access to it longer than a few hours because their parents also eventually need it,” the teacher says.
Orchestrating digital education effectively is also a challenge for the teachers, many of whom are not familiar with pedagogical digital platforms. “There are some application such as the government’s DIKSHA app or the online source for NCERT books that we are familiar with and have used before, but how do we teach a class of forty, especially younger kids through those video calls? It will be a disaster,” says the English teacher.
Meanwhile, teachers and principals of government schools are also worried that without the focused attention given to each student, as in a classroom, most students will be not able to cope up. “Even if the children are smart and focused, they often do not have the domestic set up that allows them to study in peace. At school, we provide them a safer and more peaceful environment where they can leave everything behind and just focus on studying,” says the principal of a school in Manimajra.
She adds that many students from her school are engaged in daily wage labour as well, to offer economic support to their parents. “Yes, it is a challenge as of now, but we are trying our best to figure something out soon and begin the classes soon. Our teachers will come up with a plan soon to reach out all the students,” says DEO Alka Mehta.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines