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Only 57 percent of students in Maharashtra have access to internet

July 22, 2020

According to a recent survey conducted by the Maharashtra State Council of Educational Research and Training (MSCERT) in association with the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), almost 59.8 percent of students had access to a smartphone and only about 57 percent had internet connectivity. Not even 1 percent of the total students surveyed had access to desktops and laptops.

The study conducted before the new academic year began on June 15 interviews a total of 737 schools and 6,855 students. The government had selected two blocks from each district – those with the highest and the lowest literacy rates – for the survey. Lack of access to smartphones, poor internet connectivity and lack of digital skills among parents are some of the reasons why nearly half the students in the state have poor or no access to online education.

Dinkar Patil, director, MSCERT told HT, “The aim of the survey was to identify the challenges that needed to be addressed before online reopening of schools. We are now using multiple media to reach out to our students. After schools reopened online, we started conducting another leg of the survey to understand how students are managing to learn over the last one month.”

The study revealed that only 57 percent of students in Maharashtra have access to internet. The most common challenge for students to access online learning was the lack of digital skills among parents. Nearly 72 percent of the 3,391 students claimed their parents lacked digital skills. Lack of access to smartphones (66.4%); no internet (52.3%); issues with connectivity (35.2%), and lack of family support (22.6%) were other major hurdles when it came to online learning. Nearly 8.5 percent of students were also engaged in supporting their parents with some unpaid work.

Vanita Mate, a mother of two who are studying at a Mumbai-based school moved to her hometown Mangaon in Raigad district, when the lockdown began. She doesn’t have enough money to recharge her phone. “I want my children to study but I cannot afford internet. Also, we have poor network in our village,” she said. Several parents in the metropolitan city too are facing issues with managing expenses for online learning. Pushpa Sharma, who works as a domestic help, said, “My son has online classes for two hours every day and we are struggling to afford internet pack for even a week.”

Anagha Madhukar, principal of Ahilyadevi Holkar Secondary School run by the Pune Municipal Corporation and iTeach Schools, said that a student requires 1 to 1.5GB data daily for a four-hour online class. “It would cost them about ₹200 to ₹250 a month. Over the last few months, we are happy to notice that a lot of parents have been saving some money to recharge. Even children have been saving some money,” she said. Balu Bhoyar, principal, Karamveer Vidyalaya in Chandrapur, said that as most students do not have access to technology, the only way to continue their education is through physical classes. “We have started sending teachers to localities, where small groups of students can be taught daily. It is safe and helps in continuing learning,” he said.

Kannan Moudgalya, Erach and Meheroo Mehta Advanced Education Technology chair professor, IIT-Bombay, said that when it comes to internet access, it is of two kinds. “It includes access to fast internet required to see live videos, and slow internet that can be used to download videos and watch later. Several IIT students, too, do not have access to the first type of internet, let alone school students from low-income families. For government schools, the second kind of access can be put to good use,” he said.

Source: Hindustan Times

Read: 90% government school students access remote learning in Gurugram: Study

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