Online education in rural Odisha during the pandemic has become a great challenge for the authorities in the State. Following the Covid-19 guidelines, both Higher Education and Mass Education departments of the State have instructed the schools and colleges to start virtual classes. Accordingly, both students and teachers have been active in holding online classes where they find a plethora of difficulties.
Since there is poor connectivity of networks in almost all rural areas of the State, both teachers and students face communication problem. At times, both teachers and students either climb up to hills or to the rooftops of the buildings or to trees for getting a strong network connectivity during their class time. Even though the IT firms claim their presence in almost all parts of the State, the reality is far away from it.
Quite a majority of senior teachers of rural Odisha do not know the use of android handsets, besides the apps through which online classes are conducted. The problem has not stopped with this. More than 70 per cent parents of rural Odisha have not been able to provide their children android handsets with data pack facilities. To know the truth we had made a survey in seven blocks namely Baranga, Banki, Damapada, Athagarh,Tigiria,Badamba and Narsinghpur where we found that the parents sending their wards to Government and aided schools and colleges have no mobile handsets.
During their admissions and getting scholarships from the Government, they had given the phone numbers of the owners of the Janaseva Kendras or online outlets where they submitted the admission applications. When recently, the teachers wanted to communicate with the students through the phone numbers given during the time of admission, the calls were either received by the owners of Janaseva Kendras or the numbers were no longer in operation due to lack of validation charges in most of the cases. Whie some parents said they needed more time to purchase android handsets, some others expressed their inability to do so, said sources.
This apart, the students who were provided with android handsets for the online classes, a good number of them were found misusing them, after the class hours, that is in playing game and chatting with friends using different apps.
Most importantly, the department has not settled the syllabus for Plus Two classes. Most of the teachers have not started the class as per their routines. As the department has not followed a specific app for running the online classes, the method of teaching in different institutions differ. From the survey, it was known that at best 30 per cent students can be benefitted out of the online education in rural Odisha and for the rest, the online mode is of little use.