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Only 8% Kids Have Internet Access in Rural India: COVID Exposes Digital Divide

Little or no focus on the future of students who don’t have access to online education, as netas debate love Jihad

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2 min read

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Video Producer: Mayank Chawla

The lockdown saw informed and digitally-connected students use the online mode of education to keep up with their studies. However, only 8 percent of the children in rural India had access to online education, exposing the digital divide within the country.

Many among these have no access to a computer, let alone the idea of owning one.

While the media, politicians and governments seem to be more concerned about the Taliban, Pakistan, ‘Love Jihad’ or ‘Narcotics Jihad’, there has been little focus on the future of the students, forcing us to ask 'Janab, Aise Kaise?'

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CRACKS IN ONLINE LEARNING MODEL 

During the lockdown, the government said that the online education system should be fixed. Little was done to bridge the digital divide. However, crores were spent on election campaigns.

According to a report by School Children Online or Offline Learning (SCHOOL), only 8 percent of children have access to online education in rural India, compared to 24 percent in urban India.

A report by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera says that 55 percent of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe children don’t have access to smartphones. Only 4 percent of SC/ST children have access to online education.

Another report by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says that there has been a decrease in the learning capacity in 80 percent of the students from the 14-18 year-old age group amid the pandemic.

There has been no remote learning among 42 percent of the students from the 6-12 year-old age group.

HAVE STUDENTS FORGOTTEN THEIR LESSONS?

Mohammad Akhlaq, a teacher at a middle school in Bihar, says that the students could not study for two years – 2020, 2021.

“Students from the primary classes have forgotten the mathematical tables, alphabets of languages including English, Hindi, and Urdu. Students from middle classes have forgotten the basics of subjects including mathematics and science,” says Akhlaq.

According to the government, 2.69 crore students don’t have access to any digital device in India.

Among them, 1.43 crore students reside in Bihar. A report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) says that there are 825.30 million internet subscribers in India, while rural Bihar accounts for only 20.79 million.

For equality in education, students should have access to online education. Media and government need to shift their focus away from Taliban, Pakistan or ‘Love Jihad’ to education.

Until then, we will continue to ask, 'Janab Aise Kaise?'

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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