But for a smartphone

Govt must pitch in as poor kids feel the pinch

But for a smartphone

Photo for representational purpose only

The priority of daily-wage workers, already further impoverished by the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, is to somehow buy a smartphone — by borrowing money, taking loans or digging into precious savings. For, this gadget has suddenly risen up on a poor man’s list of essentials as he is faced with a new hard reality. The school of his children has shifted to this device that entails the recurring cost of the Internet, with online classes and tests having become the norm in these Covid times. It is a sad reflection on our response to the shutting down of schools and colleges. The decision of moving to the electronic mode failed to factor in all denominations and its repercussions. Not only were both teachers and students made to plunge headlong into the digital world without the training required for technology adaption, but also the fact that most children lacked the wherewithal — computers or smartphones, Internet access— was not addressed. Children belonging to rural and remote areas are bound to lag behind their peers in learning as their access to the Internet is either non-existent or too slow and intermittent. A recent survey has shown that online teaching has impacted nearly 75 per cent of the students for these reasons.

There cannot be a one-size-fits-all schooling remedy in such circumstances as our society spans a huge spectrum of haves and have-nots. Education has all along been the fundamental force in bridging the deep socio-economic divide. There is an urgent need to address the stark digital chasm highlighted by the necessity of transitioning teaching and a range of other services from the physical to the digital realm. The provision of equal opportunities for studies to all children is of critical import to prevent further marginalisation of the poor.

The Right to Education Act, in force since 2010, makes it incumbent upon the government authorities to provide the appropriate conditions for all children in the six-to-14 age-group get free and compulsory education. They are obliged to ensure a level playing field. It would be unfortunate, indeed, if millions of pupils were to suffer academically for lack of access to digital devices and services.

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