According to government data, 2.6 lakh families in the state do not own a television set. According to the Broadcast India Survey 2018, TV penetration in Kerala is 93%.

Scores of students without TV miss virtual classes Kerala tries to find solutions Members of DYFI donating TV
Coronavirus Digital divide Thursday, June 04, 2020 - 12:47

Rajesh, a Class 7 student who belongs to a Koraga tribal family in Kasaragod district, doesn’t have a television at home, but he plans to go to his uncle’s house nearby for the virtual classes that started on Monday.

“We had a TV but it’s not working, though I can go to my uncle’s house and attend,” he said.

The 12-year-old was informed about the classes by one of his teachers and the tribal coordinator of the colony.

Meanwhile the screenshot of a comment on the Facebook page of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) state President AA Rahim went viral on social media. The comment was in response to DYFI’s ‘TV Challenge’, where the organisation offers TV sets for people who need them.

“We need a small TV for my son’s studies. I’m in Qatar and I lost my job four months ago. I don’t know how to find a way to buy a TV set now,” read the comment by Shanavas, who hails from Kollam. DYFI promised to get his family a TV set at the earliest.

Shanavas told TNM that his family in Kollam received the TV set on Wednesday afternoon.

Similarly, media outlets reported about 14-year-old Antony Albin, who lives in a shed near Level Cross Road in Alappuzha, who was sad that he could attend his first day of online class as there was no TV or smartphone at home. Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac invited him to go to a nearby study centre.

“Prathibhatheeram centre at Thumboli library is close to Antony’s house. All facilities such as internet and computers are there, and students are also given tablets. I invite him to go study there,” the Minister said.

According to government data, like Rajesh and Antony’s families there are 2,61,754 lakh families in the state who do not own a television set. According to the Broadcast India Survey 2018, TV penetration in Kerala is 93%.

The lessons for classes 1 to 12 began in Victers in the state on June 1. When it was announced, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that special study centres would be arranged in nearby libraries for children who don’t have access to televisions or smartphones.

“Data about such students will be collected and we will make sure that everyone can attend the classes. Study centres will be arranged,” the CM said.

However, on Monday came the news of Devika Balakrishnan, a 14-year-old student from Malappuram district who killed herself. Her parents allege that she was upset she couldn’t join the online classes as they did not have a TV.

Read: Kerala student kills self, parents say it was because she couldn’t attend online classes

“The classes were started as a trial run and the government has given instructions to local bodies to track such students and provide them with facilities. Only if we start we will know what are the limitations and who all need help. Within a few days, the problems will be resolved,” an official with the Education department from Malappuram district said.

Thomas Isaac said that television sets at neighbourhood study centres will be financially supported by Kerala State Financial Enterprise (KSFE).

“75% of the expenses will be borne by KSFE. The salary deducted from KSFE staff will be used for this. The balance 25% cost has to be sourced by Local Self-Government bodies or some sponsors. LSGs should collect the details of students who don’t have a TV at home. They should also identify neighbourhood study centres like libraries, anganwadis or some cooperative institutes. With all these details they have to approach KSFE,” the Minister said on June 1. He said that students can come to these centres during study hours and attend their classes.

The Minister also added that there is a scheme to allot loans through Kudumbashree and KSFE to buy laptops.

Meanwhile, a few organisations and politicians have started campaigns to provide tablets, laptops and television sets for the needy.

Ernakulam MLA Hibi Eden has started a ‘Tablet Challenge’ where people can contribute tablets to students who lack facilities. He distributes the tablets through the school authorities.

Progressive Techies, an organisation of techies working at Infopark Kochi, also started a campaign called ‘Back to class’ to collect electronic essentials for online classes for students.

DYFI also has started distributing television sets across the state.

The Chief minister also addressed the issue in his daily press meet on Wednesday.

He said, “We heard about the passing away of Devika, a Class 9 student of Irimbiliyam Government High School. I express my condolences and there is an investigation going on into her death. According to her father, the child was sad because she could not participate in the online classes. According to the education department’s preliminary investigation, we heard that 25 students in Irimbiliyam did not have access to internet or TV facilities. Devika’s class teacher had reportedly got in touch with her and promised to solve the issue. Further, an education committee meeting held by the panchayat had decided to start work to ensure internet and TV facilities to students in every ward.”

Through local self-government departments, Kudumbashree, teachers and Samagra Shiksha Keralam, TV and internet facilities are being set up in vayanashalas and other centres so that children can go and attend classes from there.

“Learning is always better in classrooms, especially for smaller children. Whenever there is an opportunity where it is safe to open schools for children, we will reopen the schools. Online learning is a stop-gap measure, not a substitute for classroom education in any way,” the CM added.

Read: Digital divide worsens social exclusion: Anti-caste activists on Devika’s death

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