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Sharmili Mallick

Koraput/Phulbani: The Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown has left each and every sector in disarray and education is no exception. 

It is among one of the worst-hit with educational institutions having been shut since the outbreak of the virus.

However, the Central and State governments tried different options- from online to television and YouTube classes- so that no child is deprived of teaching.
 But online education seems not to have got the desired response among students due to poor internet connectivity in the remote areas of the hilly districts of Odisha.
Many times students have to walk miles in certain areas to get proper signal so that they could attend online classes.

In the remote Badapeta region under Lamtaput block of Koraput district, students have to trek around one to two kilometers from their homes to a hilltop where they get mobile connectivity to join the online classes.

"Our online classes start at 9 am. Due to lack of mobile network coverage in the village, we have to walk one to two kilometres daily to a hilltop for getting signal to attend the classes. Sometimes, network fluctuates here too," said a Class X student, Kartik Khemundi.

A Class IX student from Badapeta area, Anjali Khemundi said, "I cannot attend the online classes as I do not have an Android phone. Those students who have phones go to the hilltop to study," she added.

The situation is similar at Teraguda village under Alami panchayat of Kandhamal district where online classes failed to fetch fruitful results as most areas do not have network connectivity or the guardians are unable to purchase smarts phones due to lack of money.

Students in this village can be seen gathering at one place and attend classes on a single mobile phone. 

"Four to five students attend online classes over one mobile phone. Sometimes, we miss classes due to fluctuations in network. I request the district administration to open schools as it is easy to understand lessons when the teacher explains it by writing on blackboards," stated Niranjan Kanhar, a Class VII student.

Manini Kanhar, a guardian said, "It is difficult for children to concentrate on studies while sitting at home. At the same time, it is almost impossible to maintain discipline at home. Besides, we are not rich enough to buy costly mobile phones for online classes. However, due to lack of network also, it becomes difficult to attend online classes. The schools should open," she stated.

On the other hand, Kandhamal District Education Officer (DEO) said that arrangements will be made for online classes for students in the areas where network is available.

DEO Bikash Chandra Pradhan said "We made arrangements for online classes in villages as schools are shut due to the pandemic. The Block Development Officers (BEO) and headmasters have been directed to submit a report on the areas where network is available. The problem will be addressed gradually, but for now, we have asked to cover the areas where network is available for attending digital education," the DEO added.

Meanwhile, students and their parents are demanding alternative arrangements so that no child is deprived of online education.

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