Here’s How Kerala’s TV Challenge is Helping Reduce Digital Divide

Here’s how the suicide of a Class 10 student spurred many to start a TV donation challenge for students in Kerala.

3 min read
Here’s how the suicide of a tenth grader spurred many to start a TV donation challenge for students in Kerala.

When Father David Chiramel heard that the lack of a technological device had allegedly pushed a Class 10 student in Kerala’s Malappuram to take her own life, he decided to do something about it.

“I thought to myself, do I really need my TV?” says the Roman Catholic Priest, who not only donated his television to the daughter of a painter in Thrissur, but also recorded a video message about the same.

But Fr Chiramel is not the only one to have come to the rescue of about 2.24 lakh school students in Kerala, who according to a survey, do not have access to online education.
Fr Chiramel donated his TV to Ravi’s family.
Fr Chiramel donated his TV to Ravi’s family.
(Photo: The Quint)

As news of the Class 10th student’s death spread across the state and the nation, several WhatsApp groups were formed and Malayalees both at home and abroad, started sending money so that students could learn online. This innovative effort soon took on the name of TV Challenge.

This was necessitated by the state’s decision to resume schools in the online mode, as it started TV channels to stream educational classes from 1 June.


How Malayalees Lent a Helping Hand

“When will you buy a TV?” is a question that house painter Ravi faced every single day from his daughter Anamika. Unlike many of her peers, the Class 6 student could not access educational content on television or smartphones, as her father owns a basic mobile phone that he brought for Rs 1,000.

Hence, when Fr Chiramel decided to donate his TV to the family, Ravi was relieved.

Anamika and her sister pose with the TV donated by Fr. Chiramel. 
Anamika and her sister pose with the TV donated by Fr. Chiramel. 
(Photo: The Quint)
“We were using my relative’s TV that would often fuse our electricity connection. We were without a TV for a year and I don’t even own a smartphone. Now, we got a connection and my daughter attends classes for 30 minutes everyday.”

After watching Fr Chiramel’s video, several people reached out to him, saying that they wanted to donate more television sets to the needy. Among them was 30-year-old Thrissur resident Leo, who donated Rs 15,000 for two television sets.

Leo, a professional fabricator says that even though his own earnings have dwindled, the news of suicide by the Class 10 student had really moved him. “Today, the poor are in distress, tomorrow, due to lockdown I myself could be in a similar situation. Hence, I decided to donate money for two TVs,” he said.

The two schools Leo helped out are yet to purchase their television sets.

‘TV Challenge’ to the Rescue

As mentioned earlier, several student organisations, businessmen and others donated televisions for schools children. Some of these pictures were posted on social media.


MLAs Set Up Study Centres

As the mass movement began to take shape and more and more people started donating money for TVs, several MLAs coordinated the setting up of learning centres in village community centres and anganwadis.

Among them is Kalpatta MLA C K Saseendran, who has coordinate the delivery of over 1,300 televisions for study centres in his constituency. Since not every student can be provided with a television set, study centres have been set up where students can access these classes, while maintaining social distancing.

“Each class has a different time slot and at a time only six or seven students come to the study centre. They are required wear masks, wash hands and maintain social distance.”
CK Saseendran, Kalpatta MLA 

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