An incident that took place on Thursday in a tribal colony in Kerala’s Kannur district, which left a Plus One student with a fractured spine and other injuries, has once again revealed the grave dangers and inequality faced by students of marginalised communities in the state to access digital learning. The student, identified as Ananthu Babu of Kannavam village in Panniyode, fell from a treetop, which he had climbed to get network coverage to access classes. On Thursday, Ananthu, a student of St Cornelius Higher Secondary School in Kolayad, along with his brother and sister studying in Class 10 and Class 5, climbed on top of trees in a forest region near their house. In between attending his lessons, Ananthu fell down, as the branch he was sitting on, broke. He is presently admitted in the Pariyaram Medical College, with a fracture in his spine and fractures in his two feet. The incident was first reported by Naufal Bin Yousaf of Asianet News.
Speaking to TNM, Ananthu’s mother Usha TR, said that the students of the colony, belonging to the Kurichian tribe, have been studying this way for over one year. “We had approached many people, including the panchayat, asking to provide a tower in the region for network. All the school students here, including the small children, climb on treetops to get their lessons. No one has addressed this issue since the past one year. It took my son to fall down and break his spine, for the officials to finally open their eyes and start work,” Usha tells TNM, from Pariyaram Medical College. “It is learned from the people in my colony that officials have started laying the cable on Friday,” Usha adds.
“It is by undergoing all this hardship that my son passed the Class 10 exam last year. Even though we parents know that what the students do is risky, what else can they do? Only on top of trees, we get network coverage here. There was no one to help us. My child would have been spared from this agony if not,” laments Usha.
Usha and her husband, both daily wage labourers, also said that not all students in the tribal colony have digital devices to access online learning. “I have three children and only one phone. Often, the younger one ends up not being able to access her lessons, since the other two are in higher classes and they have lots to learn,” Usha adds.
Watch the Asianet News report:
The situation is not isolated. Across Kerala, in marginalised communities, including tribal colonies, students have been accessing education facing grave dangers after the Kerala government kickstarted digital learning last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though initially, there was a vast campaign to bridge the digital divide by providing digital devices to scores of students, over 50,000 students still remain excluded from access to digital learning, as per official estimates.
Meanwhile, reacting to the Kannur incident, General Education Minister V Sivankutty told Asianet News that work to ensure that a proper network is available in such places is underway. “In Kannur alone, there were 137 places where there was no network coverage. In 77 places, we have completed the work. In this particular place too, work has commenced,” the minister said.
Last year, a Class 9 student, Devika, hailing from a Dalit colony in Malappuram district, was found dead on June 1, suspectedly by sucide, allegedly dejected that she had no means to class digital classes.
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