At least 45 lakh students in Kerala began attending virtual classes organised by the state education department at the beginning of the new academic year on Monday in a bid to ensure that they do not miss out on lessons due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, PTI reported.
The online sessions named ‘First Bell’ are telecast through VICTERS Channel, under the State General Education Department, for classes 1 to 12 from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM on weekdays. The channel is available for free on cable networks, over the internet and direct-to-home.
The Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) has set a timetable for conducting the classes.
The sessions are to be held from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm from Monday to Friday for all classes from 1 to 12, except class 11, on the channel. The time slots for different classes vary from half-an-hour to two hours, a press release issued by KITE said.
However, Manorama quoted a study by General Education Department which found that more than 2.6 lakh students had no facilities for online classes. The data was collected from over 43.76 lakh students in the state’s government schools.
On Tuesday, a Class 10 student died by suicide, allegedly because she did not have the resources to attend the online classes, NDTV reported. C. Raveendranath, Kerala’s education minister, has asked officials for a report on the incident.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday evening announced that Neighbourhood Study Centres will be set up for students who do not have access to a television, smartphone or internet. These centres will be provided TVs at subsided cost, he said.
The centres will be set up like a classroom and provided TV to air VICTERS channel and accommodate students while following social distancing norms.
KITE said that for the first week at least 1.2 lakh laptops, over 7,000 projectors and nearly 4,545 televisions have been readied for students who may need them.
“We have entrusted the class teachers and school headmasters or principals to make sure that students have access to a television or a smart phone 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 department also said all the classes will be in a downloadable format and can be compiled together and shown to those who have missed the class later.
The department said in the first week, the classes will be telecast on a trial basis and these will be repeated in the second week.
While PTI reported that NGOs and local self-government institutions had set up digital classrooms in Dalit colonies and adivasi hamlets, according to The NewsMinute, about 40% of the tribal students in Wayanad missed classes on the first day because they could not access TV or the internet.
While the Congress has criticised the government for starting classes when a large number students do not have access to online learning, the state’s education minister said it was well equipped to handle the situation.
Education minister Raveendranath said after the first week of trial, the government would invite feedback from all stakeholders and make necessary corrections.