Jharkhand is planning to provide free laptops to all the government school students of classes IX to XII in a bid to facilitate the process of online education. Most of these students are from humble backgrounds.
The initiative will help the students get comfortable with the daily use of computers and gadgets, officials from the state school education and literacy department have said.
Jharkhand’s school education and literacy minister Jagarnath Mahto recently addressed a letter to chief minister Hemant Soren, requesting his permission to allow procurement of laptops for government school students of classes IX to XII. In his letter, Mahto mentioned that the laptops would help government school students stay up to date with the changing trends in the field of education.
“Many government school students could not attend online classes owing to a lack of access to smartphones and other compatible devices during the lockdown. I have requested our chief minister to approve distribution of laptops among students of classes IX to XII in a bid to help them get access to digital education,” Mahto said.
According to figures with the Jharkhand Academic Council, more than 15 lakh students study in classes IX to XII at government schools in the tribal state. Many of these students come from families of farmers, smalltime businessmen and even daily wage labourers.
According to the latest Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) 2021, only 15.3% of school students in Jharkhand had access to digital platforms of education for their daily studies during the COVID-19-induced lockdowns.
Rameshwar Mehta, the principal of Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya in Palamu district’s Dangwar block, admitted that teachers had to visit villages and teach students on fields and under tree sheds during the lockdowns.
“Forget smartphones and laptops, most students did not even have TV sets at home. We had to visit the villages and teach them or they would have dropped out,” he said.
Providing laptops to the students may, however, not address all the problems related to digital learning in Jharkhand. According to the school education and literacy department, at least 47 blocks and more than 7,000 government schools in the state fall in shadow zones – areas with no cellular network coverage or internet connectivity.
“We are also working on providing internet connectivity in all the shadow zones,” said an official from the Jharkhand Education Project Council.