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Moved by students’ forest trek for internet, Nagaland offers online lessons via pen drive

ThePrint had reported on 6 August how students in the village of Tsuruhu were trekking 3 km through a forest to the only spot with network connectivity to take their exams.

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Kohima: The Nagaland government has decided to distribute pen drives loaded with study material in places with poor internet connectivity, to ensure access to online education in remote areas.  

The initiative comes days after ThePrint reported how students in the remote village of Tsuruhu were trekking 3 km through a forest, to the only local spot with network connectivity, to take their exams. 

As schools remain closed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, students in Nagaland, as in the rest of India, are having to rely on online or remote lessons to get through the curriculum. However, internet connectivity proves a big hurdle. According to government data from 2018, internet connectivity has only reached about 35 per cent of the population in the eight northeastern states.

The pen drives to be distributed in areas like Tsuruhu will contain lessons for classes 5-12, prepared and recorded by teachers for dissemination through channels such as Air India Radio and Doordarshan. 

“We have the videos on digital platforms like YouTube and Facebook and on Doordarshan. But for these you need internet connection,” Shahnavas C., principal director of the state government’s department of school education, told ThePrint. 

He said he approached the president of the Tsuruhu student’s union — which has been helping organise the mid-forest exams — to inform him of the initiative. “I told them that we’ll give them the lessons through pen drives, and they were very happy about it. We are collecting (the lessons) on an immediate need because they have an urgent need.”

Also Read: Knitting, sketching, handicrafts — quarantine’s a vacation in this Nagaland village

A ray of hope

Earlier this month, ThePrint had travelled to Tsuruhu, whose residents are members of the Sema tribe, and discovered the lengths they were going to get local students to appear for exams. 

Volunteers of the village’s student union had become de facto teachers and exam moderators. Students and the moderators would sit on a bench in a clearing in the jungle, where the latter would dictate questions from one of only three smartphones in the village. The moderators would then click photos of the exam answer sheets and send them to the school. Downloading study notes also involved the same trek through the jungle. For the students of Tsuruhu village, the government’s move has come as a ray of hope.

“The director of education said that he will provide pen drives through some officers, in order to ensure students have access to digital classes. He told me to gather some students in a hall from where the students can access the digital classes,” said Iuka Zhimomi, the president of the student’s union.

According to him, the initiative is a step in the right direction, but he said the two small desktop computers in the village were not sufficient for its 39 students. 

“If we get a laptop also, we can possibly carry it around, watch it in each house… I have stated the requirements to officials in the Zunheboto deputy commissioner’s office, who got in touch with us… They will raise the demand with the director.”

Principal director Shahnavas, however, stated that it would be difficult to get laptops to these areas because of the Covid-19 situation.

“We expect that all the student bodies in the villages will help this way,” Shahnavas said, adding that the department has asked teachers in rural areas to ensure that students access notes and worksheets.  

The pen drives will be provided to government schools free of cost, but they will cost private schools Rs 350-Rs 850 each and can be ordered through the department’s online portal.

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