Forbes India|June 5, 2020
What 16-year-old Anjali Pandey likes most about attending online classes during the lockdown is the fact that she does not have to drag herself out of bed early morning. Not an early riser, she feels the ability to attend classes at her own pace has made her more productive and efficient. The class 12 student of Government Girls Senior Secondary School No 1, Roop Nagar, Delhi, is part of a pilot online learning programme called Project Aspiration, which was launched in early March by the Delhi government and Career Launcher, to ensure class 12 students continue their education through the lockdown.
“I would prefer these kind of classes over school since I can study at my own pace,” she says, adding, “I don’t think there would be any need for coaching classes at all.” For the project, Career Launcher trained a number of government school teachers on how to conduct classes online. To manage the massive number of attendees, there are assistant teachers who manage online chats and help clear doubts. “Instead of regular 40-minute classes, we started two classes of 1.5 hours each to ensure each child gets enough attention,” says Neha Wahi, chief mentor, capacity building and CLEF AP, of Career Launcher. Every day the platform has about 1.65 lakh students across various subjects, while for students who don’t have access to smartphones or laptops at all times of the day, content is accessible at any time of the day.
Very far from the digitally connected and internet-enabled lives of urban students like Pandey, lies the village of Khapri, more than 140 km from the city of Nagpur, in the district of Chandrapur in Maharashtra. On a Tuesday morning at 10.30, families have gathered around the village temple, while maintaining social distancing. In about 15 minutes, the community favourite radio programme, Shalebaherchi Shala (school outside school), is about to be heard on the temple loudspeaker. Every Tuesday and Friday, this morning ritual plays out, as villagers listen, learn and do the activities that the programme talks about.
The coronavirus pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and physical closure of all educational institutions highlights, yet again, the chasm between urban and rural students in their ability to access education. While urban institutes have taken to live and recorded lectures, and portals that are backed by the latest technology, youngsters in villages barely have access to a cellphone.
In the vast swathes of India’s hinterland, where smartphones and internet penetration remain in the realm of impossible aspirations, organisations such as Delhi and Mumbai-based NGO Pratham are reimagining the concept of ‘online’ classes. The radio broadcast that people in Khapri gather to listen is part of an educational programme that it conceptualised, along with the Nagpur Akashwani Kendra; it comprises “15-minute radio broadcasts, which include educational activities and conversations with children and parents, so that parents understand how best to engage their child in a time like this”, says Smitin Brid, programme director, Early Childhood Education at Pratham Education Foundation (PEF).
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June 5, 2020