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JU VC appeals for digital divide funds

A corpus of Rs 21 lakh was raised last year, which was utilised to buy students smartphones and data packs
Suranjan Das
Suranjan Das
File picture

Subhankar Chowdhury   |   Jadavpur   |   Published 14.04.21, 01:12 AM

Jadavpur University vice-chancellor Suranjan Das has appealed to “the members of the university family” to “donate generously” to “enable the university to address the issue of digital divide affecting a large section of students”.

A corpus of Rs 21 lakh was raised last year, which was utilised to buy students smartphones and data packs.

Since classes of the even semester have started on digital platforms, as a precaution against the raging Covid pandemic, VC Das on Monday posted a fresh appeal on the university’s website, “soliciting contribution from members of the extended university community” to initiate the third phase of data recharging drive.

The appeal says: “All concerned are requested to take care of this appeal and donate generously for a greater cause”.

Campuses across the state have remained shut since March last year because of Covid.

Ahead of the start of classes on digital platforms in September last year, the VC had on August 19 appealed to teachers and other employees to donate a day’s salary and requested alumni, guardians and others to contribute to raise funds to provide smartphones and high-speed data packs to students so they could overcome the digital divide and attend classes.

An official of the university said the corpus had been exhausted.

“Although the higher education department wants the classes to be held on digital platforms in the coming days following a renewed surge in Covid-19 cases, it has not released any money to any state-funded university to address the issue of digital divide. So we have to again arrange funds on our own,” said the official.

Cases are being reported on the campus on such a scale that the university has been forced to reduce the office attendance of non-teaching employees and officers to “at least” three days a week from early April.

“In a situation like this, continuance of classes on digital platforms is the only way forward. We have to help the students who encounter financial constraints as long as possible so that they can attend classes on these platforms overcoming the digital divide,” the VC told Metro.

At JU, a large section of students come from remote places of districts like Bankura, Purulia, West Midnapore and South 24-Parganas.

“Many of them are children of peasants, fishermen and daily wage earners, whose financial conditions have worsened during the pandemic. We cannot stop helping them after buying them smartphones. They have to be provided resources to be able to keep using the phones,” said a JU official.

The VC has said in his appeal that the university was able to provide 250 smartphones to needy students and data recharging to 750 students.

“The university is now required to initiate the third phase of the data recharging drive for our students. In this connection I once again….,” Das has written in his appeal.

Das had asked teachers in April last year to be “cautious” about conducting online classes or sharing digital content as “many students may not be able to afford a desktop computer or laptop at home, or may be staying in a remote village, with limited or no Internet connectivity”.

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