COVID-19 lockdown in India caused a major disruption in the schedule of school-going children of the country. With new norms to be followed, the schools across the country were shut down resulting in compromised education status of young students of India. Considering the uncertainty regarding the duration of COVID-19 lockdown or social distancing norms, many schools across the country started taking online classes of students. However, many students were left bereft of this because of inaccessibility to the internet or smartphones.
Digital penetration in India has been very successful. But it has not been enough to ensure that every citizen is able to avail the benefits of the digital world. This has left many students at a disadvantaged position than their peers.
Kerala has been pioneering in the education sector. Keralites have time and again asserted that education is a major priority for them. The state has often gone out of its way to ensure that all of its have access to education irrespective of costs or circumstances. The state could not accept that 2.42 lakh of its students will not have access to online classes as they did not have access to the internet or smartphones.
In order to ensure education for all its students, the entire state of Kerala started a mass movement that included collaboration among government, businesses, alumni associations, MLAs, MPs and local civic bodies. This unprecedented intervention has helped reduce the number of students without access to online classes to 1.20 lakh. However, this was not enough for the Keralites.
To make the accessibility of education more inclusive, in some villages, WhatsApp groups and alumni associations donated money to buy TVs or smartphones. Furthermore, many local businessmen provided TV sets as part of a “TV challenge’’ launched by the state’s Industries Department to enable digital learning for students. In addition to this, with approval from the government MLAs used their local development fund to buy TVs and laptops for students. And the state’s local self-governing bodies stepped in to complete the chain.
Almost all villages in Kerala have at least one common centre, be it an Anganwadi, a reading room or a sports club. The availability of these spaces made it easier for the education department to set up a classroom. Teachers of government and aided private schools were placed in charge at these centres.
For instance, Wayanad had the largest number of students without individual access to online classes. Therefore, common study centres were set up for 9,200 children in the district.
The state has resumed the classes for the next academic year and is being telecast on the educational channel IT@School Victers channel.
Because of dedicated hard work by the stakeholders, the state of Kerala has set a precedent by ensuring in the duration of two weeks, that online classes reach every school student in the state.