Tripura has started open-air classes for students of government and government-aided schools who lack access to online lessons in an attempt to bridge the digital divide in learning.
These lessons are being conducted in a range of settings—from playgrounds and fields to shady spots in the schools’ vicinity—with a maximum of five students per class.
Over 1 lakh students from class III to XII of government and government-aided schools across the state turned up for the “neighbourhood classes” that commenced Thursday, said state Education Minister Ratan Lal Nath.
Each class begins with a ten-minute introduction on Covid-19 and suggestions on precautionary measures. The students need to wear a mask throughout and carry a hand sanitizer with them, besides maintaining appropriate distance from one another.
Tripura has around 4,400 government schools where some 27,000 teachers are in service.
“The students joined the classes with the approval of their parents. We have also asked the teachers not to pressure any student into coming to the classes if their parents are not ready,” said Nath.
Earlier, the state had started video lectures on local TV channels for those without smartphones.
But a survey conducted among 3,22,297 students from all eight districts of Tripura by the Education Department revealed that while around 94,000 students could not attend online classes for want of a smartphone, as many as 1.42 lakh did not possess a television set. The neighbourhood classes, many of them in remote areas, were started keeping all these students in mind, the minister said.
North Tripura district had 22,605 students without phone access—the highest in the state—followed by Sipahijala (18,833), Dhalai (13,999) and West Tripura (13,909). 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 a phone. The survey responses came from students enrolled in 3,974 schools.
Nath Friday added that the state has reduced the syllabus for Social Studies, Bengali and English by 50 per cent, and Environmental Studies, Science and Mathematics by 40 per cent, for classes III to VIII owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
For Classes IX-XII, NCERT has cut its syllabus by 30 per cent and a further reduction may be possible, the minister said, adding that the Tripura Board of Secondary Education is waiting for such a move before taking a call of its own.
The state government will decide on the re-opening of schools after receiving instructions from the Union Education Ministry.
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