Though the state was to ensure that all students without access to TV or internet are also able to attend classes, tribal students in areas were left out.

In mammoth exercise Kerala starts virtual classes for more than 40 lakh studentsPic by Sreekesh Raveendranath Nair
news Education Monday, June 01, 2020 - 19:18

Snehitha entered Class 10 this year. Every year, on June 1, she would go to school after two months’ vacation. This time, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit her school reopening schedule. She listened to her teachers’ lectures on Youtube on Monday morning.

Kerala has restarted classes for school students from LKG to Class 12 with experimental virtual classes. Students can attend virtual classes on YouTube or through the government-run education channel Kite Victers.

The classes are meant for an estimated 43- 45 lakh students studying in government and government-aided schools. Classes are held between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm on weekdays. 

The project for the virtual classes has been named ‘First Bell’. For those without access to the internet— laptop or computer— classes are streamed through the Kite Victers channel, available for free on cable networks, over the internet and direct-to-home (DTH). Around 70 students in a panchayat in Alappuzha watched the classes on android phones bought by the panchayat.  

“The classes went well. There were classes on three subjects for us today: Malayalam, English and Mathematics. Today, the teachers did a basic introduction. Detailed classes will commence from tomorrow. They have also given us homework to do,” Snehitha tells TNM. She is a student of the Government Model Higher Secondary School for Girls in Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram.

Snehitha, however, misses her friends a lot. “Every year, June 1 is also the day for reuniting with my friends. I miss my teachers, my friends and everyone at school. The pleasure of being in a classroom is something different, that online learning can never give. But I am sure that we will be able to go back to school soon,” she says with hope.

Classes for LKG and UKG students will be for half-an-hour, an hour for Lower and Upper Primary classes, one-and-half hours for high school and two hours for Plus Two students. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that arrangements will be made for those students who don’t have access to internet or television.

Virtual classes began with the wishes of the Chief Minister.

However, about 40 percent of the tribal students in Wayanad reportedly missed classes as they don't have access to televisions or the internet.

According to a report on Manorama News, there are 28,000 students in the district, as per Scheduled Tribes Development Department statistics. Of them, 10,000 have no internet facilities. Many students among those who have the facilities aren’t aware that the classes have begun.

The Education Department would collect details of students who didn’t attend the virtual classes today. They would be provided with the facilities in cooperation with the state Kudumbashree Mission at anganwadis and schools.

The Opposition slammed the move, alleging that classes began without students being provided basic facilities. 

“2.6 lakh students in the state don’t have the facilities for online learning, as per the Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK) survey. Students who don’t have smartphones or (access to) the internet weren’t able to attend classes,” Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mullappally Ramachandran said. 

“The teachers in Kerala are well-equipped to handle this kind of training and manage any kind of situation as they proved during the time of the floods,” Education Minister CK Raveendranath said. He noted that the first week is a trial period, during which the government would assess shortcomings. 

“The government will take feedback from all the stakeholders to make the corrections needed and also to find out the students who missed the classes,” the Minister said.

A Government Order (GO) passed by the Kerala government on May 29 specified that arrangements have to be made for students without internet or TV facilities. 

The Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) said that 1.2 lakh laptops, 7,000 projectors and over 4,500 TV sets had been readied for needy students on a trial basis.

“We have entrusted the class teachers and school headmasters or principals to make sure that students have access to a television or a smartphone or a computer, and Internet for the classes. If not, they should find an alternative for the students to attend the online classes either in real time or later," Director of Public Instruction (DPI), K Jeevan Babu, said.

The Education Department has asked teachers and schools to ensure that classes can be downloaded at a later time by those who were unable to attend, suggesting alternatives such as TV or Internet facilities of neighbours, students staying nearby, libraries or Akshaya centres.

"The class teacher should communicate with those students and should arrange alternative facilities after discussing with the principal or head teacher. For this different methods may need to be followed depending on the area or the living condition of a student," the GO reads. 

The GO also says that in distant places the classes can be made available to the students using laptops or a projector. “This can be done by Sarva Siskha Abhiyan coordinators, volunteers of Students Police Cadet, National Service Scheme and that of the Little Kites (IT network of students). At places where the internet is not available, students can listen to downloaded  classes on laptops or projectors,” it says.

Inputs PTI

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