All educational institutions have been closed for almost three months now ever since the COVID-19 lockdown began. While private schools are getting creative and teaching through conference calls, students in government schools are being left behind.

It took a pandemic for the Indian government to realize that its approach to education needs a huge technology boost.

Take for instance the government of the state of Chhattisgarh in India’s center-east. It launched the Padhai Tuhar Dwar (Education at Your Doorstep) portal.

School teachers and their students can register on the portal through their mobile numbers and some basic information.

It allows teachers to conduct online classes and upload study material. But the sudden digitization has not been an easy leap for all.

“We have no smartphones or computers at home so I used our neighbor’s phone to register on the portal,” Dolly, a Class 10 student in a government school in the state’s Raigarh district, said.

“But I haven’t been able to attend any online classes because I cannot keep borrowing their phone to log in.”

A teacher from Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district, who did not want to be named, revealed, “Class teachers have to make sure that every student in their class is registered on the portal. But most students either do not have access to a smartphone or have poor internet connectivity. We could not even reach a lot of students on their registered phone numbers.”

Over 180,000 teachers registered on the portal. But only 557 online classes have been conducted for students from Class 1 to 12.

The teachers are now forced to run a digital classroom with no training whatsoever, not to mention the obstacles due to an unreliable power supply.

“The government should have started introducing technology much before the pandemic,” said Isha Mishra, who is on a fellowship to help develop leadership at government schools of Mumbai.

“The system desperately needs it. Digitization is a part of education itself. It is important for effective learning. But for it to work, we must break the resistance within teachers as well. After spending years in a conventional classroom, they need training, regular follow up and timely technical assistance.”

In some districts like Kawardha and Bastar, a steady 2G network is still a distant dream.

According to the latest report by the Indian government’s National Sample Survey Office, less than one-fourth of households have access to the internet, and the number is reduced to a little more than one-tenth when it comes to households with students.

To be able to afford education at a low cost is naturally a priority for everyone. But for now, it remains a dream for some.


Source: The Diplomat