Poor connectivity in Bageshwar, Uttarakhand has severely impacted the education of girls, says Hema Goswami
For the last two years, Mamta Goswami and her friends have packed their bags with notebooks and tiffin boxes not to go to school but to a place where they can find a network to attend their online classes. They leave in the morning before classes begin and return in the evening. However, there is no guarantee that the network will be stable for the entire day. While few girls are lucky enough to at least attend classes online, many are not allowed by their parents as they have to walk quite a distance. “Many times, we walk one kilometre away from our homes where we can access network only for some time. It also gets very difficult to submit our assignments on time due to a lack of network. If there are any questions regarding our studies neither we can Google it nor talk to any teacher,” expressed Mamta. She emphasised if only she had a network so that access to educational apps or keeping herself updated with current affairs would be easier.
Mamta is a resident of Rolyana village, located 20 kilometres away from Baijnath in Garur Block in Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand. Although the absence of a network is not new for the villagers here, education being shifted to online mode has left the students of this village has affected the girls especially. The majority of the households own one mobile phone which is made available to the son in the family. The girls are able to use the phones for online classes only when the brothers are over with their classes.
According to a report, a study shows how boys had more access to digital infrastructure such as mobile phones, internet services, radio and media. This highlights how the lack of digital schooling has deprived girls of education in the last few years. Besides, girls are more involved in household chores leaving them very little time to themselves and even time or energy to walk to a place where they can access a network to use their phones.
Preparing for the board examination, Sarojini, another resident of the village, said, “Everyone knows the importance of board examinations. Understanding its importance, our teachers are available online. But because of a poor network, I am not able to contact them and get answers to my questions. It is impacting my education.” She emphasised that if the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and network companies had paid any attention to improving the network in these remote rural areas, many students like her would not have been affected negatively. Likewise, teachers are also worried about the impact. Neeraj Pant, a teacher from the village, is concerned about how the students, especially the ones appearing for the boards, will cope with online classes without any network. “The absence of a network makes it extremely difficult for us to guide and stay in touch with the students. How is it possible for the students to appear for the boards without attending classes? It should be a matter of concern for both the school and the education department,” he informed.
On the other hand, villagers have been facing this issue for ages now. According to Manju Devi, the phone is the only means of contacting family members who have migrated to the cities in search of employment. But due to a lack of network, contacting them is a challenge. “Nowadays, everything is digital. Many tasks can be easily completed through the internet. But we cannot even make calls without troubled network, let alone access to the internet,” she lamented.
Time and again, the people of this village have been trying to raise this issue of the poor network as it is very crucial to carry out several important tasks. While poor network infrastructure influences the villagers in accessing various services, it certainly impacts girls’ education and access to information.
(The writer is a resident of Rolyana village, Bageshwar and an advocate for equal rights for girls and women.)