New Delhi: Sanchay, the son of a bus driver who enters Class 12 this year, finds himself at sea as the Delhi government starts online lessons for perhaps the most crucial academic stage of an Indian school student.
His sister is taking online lessons for college entrances and it’s difficult to juggle their requirements on the one phone the family shares. “There is only one smartphone in our house, so we don’t know how we both will manage,” he told ThePrint.
Schools and colleges across India remain suspended amid the national lockdown imposed by the Modi government to check the spread of Covid-19. With the authorities reluctant to let the lockdown affect academic calendars and students’ study curve, schools throughout the country have been opting for internet classes.
Online lessons for Class 12 students in Delhi government schools started Monday via the Zoom app, which has emerged as the mainstay for official appointments amid the lockdown. Anchoring the effort is the private coaching centre Career Launcher.
As things stand, two subjects are being dealt with daily between 8.30 am and 12 noon. The first day saw classes for Accounts and English, while History and Maths followed Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was Physics and Business Studies.
The results for Class 11 are yet to be announced, but an estimated 1.5 lakh students are expected to join Class 12 this year. Compared to this, the attendance has been thin. According to government officials, only about 9,100 students have registered for classes thus far.
Attendance for individual classes is even more dismal, even if one accounts for the fact that the overall strength of Classes 11 and 12 is further divided as students opt for different streams such as Science, Commerce and Arts.
Only around 2,200 logged in for the Maths class Tuesday, while 395 signed in for History, government officials said. The number for Wednesday was yet to be compiled at the time of publishing.
Students and teachers ThePrint spoke to offered many reasons for this low attendance. While the Delhi government has distributed tablets to 17,000 students of the Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas and other schools of excellence, many others just don’t have the gadgets required — either a tablet or a smartphone.
Several others said they didn’t know such a thing was happening, while some complained they found it hard to log in because their entire family shared one phone.
“My father works in a hospital and he needs his phone when he steps out,” said a Class 12 student of a South Delhi government school. “This leaves us with no phone at home when the digital classes happen.” The student said their teacher had promised to get back to him with a solution.
Sanchay said he didn’t want to miss out on the lectures because of unavailable resources.
At a school in Ghitorni, a teacher pegged the attendance at just 20 per cent on both Tuesday and Wednesday morning due to poor internet connectivity.
A Maths teacher for Classes 11 and 12 at Ramanujan Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Mehrauli, said they were trying to do what they could to help the students out.
“We have also made WhatsApp groups and have sought email and other details of all children so that we can count how many people don’t have tablets or smartphones,” she said, adding that even she wasn’t conversant with Zoom.
“Not just students, it is a new kind of learning for us too… so I will have to be trained on how to use this app before I can start classes,” she added.
Asked about the problems being faced, a senior official in the Delhi education department official said they were looking for ways to engage all students.
“We are figuring out a way wherein, through IRV (interactive voice response) and other modules, we will try and send work through mobile phones, where one doesn’t necessarily need to have a smartphone, and children can be assigned work daily, which will then have to submitted in a particular time duration.”
The state government has also decided to provide Rs 200 each through direct benefit transfer for data packs.
About complaints that students of some schools hadn’t received the registration link from the directorate of education at all, Delhi government officials said they had begun preparing lists after parents approached the department in this regard. “They will have the link to the online session by tomorrow definitely,” an official told ThePrint Wednesday.
Meanwhile, there are other worries too. A government school teacher in Defence Colony said she was worried about the students who had begun taking classes but may eventually fail their Class 11 exams.
“The Class 11 students who have enrolled themselves for these classes haven’t got their results, and hence they are the ones taking these sessions for Class 12,” she said. “I am worried, if someone fails later, won’t it be disappointing unless the CBSE intervenes to promote these students like it did for classes 1 to 8, given the extraordinary times?”
‘EWS students also worried’
The lack of technology is also a concern among some EWS (economically weaker section) students in private schools, which have also started online classes.
“We have been uploading study material through Google Classroom,” a private school teacher told ThePrint.
“It is a difficult situation, since, at the end of the day, the authorities want the best and are looking at ways to help out all students,” the teacher said. “We have even been reaching out to them through personal phone calls.”