Digital Divide: Students in Assam’s Hojai Struggle With E-Classes

The ground reality of the ‘Digital India’ project paints a different picture. 

Published12 Jun 2020, 11:22 AM IST
My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Video Producer
: Aastha Gulati

After the declaration of nationwide lockdown by the government of India on 25 March following the coronavirus outbreak in the country, the movement of people was restricted along with several economic, religious, and educational activities. Hence, schools were of no exception. In ‘Unlock 1’, educational institutions remain shuttered.

Given this situation, teaching shifted online and several schools and colleges have been conducting e-classes through different streaming, video-calling, and messenger applications.

In this new reality, students are using digital technology to attend online classes but many who belong to the economically weaker sections are struggling with the means.

Three Boys, Same Story

For 19-year-old Rayhanul from Hojai district in Assam, attending online classes is no less than a struggle. In his family, there are four school-going family members who have to attend these classes. His uncle owns the sole smartphone in his family. Rayhanul has to receive notes and send his homework to teachers online, but he is not even able do this regularly, as he can hardly use the phone for an hour. Furthermore, his uncle has to be busy outside to earn the bread and butter for the family.

“Since the lockdown, our classes are being conducted online. I and three other children in the family have to send our homework online. But we have only one phone which my uncle owns. Therefore, we are facing difficulties.” 

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there are 1,156 million mobile subscribers in India as of 31 January 2020. A market research firm techARC estimates that in 2019, India had approximately 502.2 million smartphone users. From the data, it is all clear that a major chunk of the population does not have access to smartphones. However, even beyond data, these young boys are a case in point about the digital divide evident in the country.

I spoke with 20-year-old Imran who had recently appeared for his final Class 12 examination. He wishes to learn English and had enrolled in classes 10 days before the lockdown started.

His 14-year-old brother is in 7th class at a private school. Both Imran and Maruf are not attending their online classes as they do not have a smartphone. The two basic phones they have at home are not of use as the online classes need to be attended using a smartphone, which they say the family cannot afford.

“I have been trying to buy a phone for the last two years. My father is a driver, he earns a minimum salary. If we buy a phone with that money, it costs his one month’s salary. The money is rather used for other expenses at home. Due to the lockdown, without a phone, my time is being wasted.”

Akimul’s problems are all too similar.

He is going to appear for his Class 10 final examination. The government school where he studies has been conducting online classes, sharing study materials online. But attending classes is a major challenge for him.

With a family of nine members, they have only one smartphone which his elder brother owns.

“My elder brother owns the only phone in the family and he has to take it with him to work. I get to access it for some time, perhaps an hour. I have no other way now. I am facing many problems.”

Back in 2014, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Narendra Modi government wants to ensure a smartphone in the hands of every citizen by 2019. However, after long 6 years, the contrary has happened – the digital divide is widening.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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