Pradeep Pattanayak

Visit any village in the rural heartland of the State these days and you will certainly come across children playing marbles, or walking with faggots collected from forests on their heads, or, even helping elders with household chores. 

This has become a regular occurrence during the ongoing Covid-19 times. This makes one think about the future of these children who are not as fortunate as their urban counterparts who have access to all facilities, like mobile phones and seamless connectivity to make the most out of the online education process, a new normal during the pandemic times.

In many remotest pockets, while parents are struggling hard to keep the wolf away from the door, buying their children smart phones for online classes is an unfathomable reality. 

In some other pockets, even if the parents managed to buy smart phones by curtailing daily expenses, poor signal is rendering the remote access device useless, and, the children, helpless. 
Taking this problem into account, the School and Mass Education department has asked the district education officers to ensure that teachers in schools teach the students in small groups in those areas. 
However, the move is far from achieving the desired results. 

“I have forgotten what I learnt two years ago. This is because I have not attended any class in last two years. We don’t have internet service in our village and to access it we have to go a village which is 12 kilometres away from our village,” a student said. 

A parent cursed the pandemic for its disastrous effect on the education system. “Our children have forgotten everything that they had learnt two years ago. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, they have stopped going to schools. Being deprived of online class facilities, they are spending their times unproductively by playing marbles and grazing cattle,” he rued. 

When contacted over phone,  Koraput DEO Ramachandra Nahak said classes were being taken over WhatsApp groups and students were also learning in micro teams. 

With physical classes suspended, the worst sufferers are the students of Class X and XII. While those among the privileged few are attending online classes, the worst off are left with no choice but leave everything to luck. They said they are attending doubt clearing classes but those are of little help. 

As per the government data, only 33 percent students had access to online education facility in 2020. In 2021, it improved a little to reach 40 percent. 
The mooted question is what will happen to the rest 60 percent?

Considering the entire picture, educationists made a common observation that offline classes must start, albeit in phases. 

“When shops and markets are allowed to open, there is no justification to suspend offline classes. I urge the government to find ways to start physical classes,” said Pritish Acharya, an educationist. 
Meanwhile, a decision has been taken to start YouTube Live Streaming Class for students of Class I to VIII from January 27. It is to be seen if this step will deliver any good.

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