Rural Students Paid The Highest Cost During The Covid-19 Hit

“It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education.” Nelson Mandela

When Nelson Mandela said this, he was not aware that the world would stand still after March 2020. At the onset of the Covid-19, the worst affected sector was education, when this global pandemic took a colossal hit on all the sectors of the economy; it was slightly easier for the urban students to transform their studies digitally, the rural students took the worst hit.

With the backdrop of the rural-urban education divide, students from rural India who were studying in the government schools suffered the most, as 80 percent of government school students in (Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh) did not receive any educational materials during the lockdown.

According to the annual Status of Education Report(ASER 2020 survey) following were the major highlights:

The conditions kept worsening because there were only 24 percent of households had access to the internet. Classroom learning took a 360-degree turn and left students with no options other than to adopt the virtual classes.

While the benefit of online learning were multiple and it proved to be a boon in these tough times, there were many roadblocks in the way ahead towards making education an entirely digital (online) experience.

One of the major concerns of a rural population is that it is still not equipped with utilities like the internet (moderate to fast speed), uninterrupted power supply and usage of electronic devices. This has proved to be a great cause of hindrance for India to make education digital or online.

Let us closely examine the factors that are affecting the implementation of education to children in the rural sector:

1) Lack of Digital Literacy

Being digitally sound and able to find a solution on their own via the usage of technology is still a road less traveled for students in rural areas. Although the power and network of infrastructure have improved leaps and bounds in the remote areas of the country, it is still not enough for the implementation of digital utilities.

Even though the teachers and students have become slightly dependent on digital means of learning, but the lack of digital literacy is a barrier in moving forward. The steady flow of electricity and lack of high-speed internet still poses to be a major problem for the rural population.

2) Scarcity of technological devices

The fact that many students in rural India do not have access to personal laptops or computers, and smartphone makes it a lot difficult to reach them

For the fortunate ones who somehow have access to these are unable to bear the increasing cost of data packs. The live classes require a lot of data usage compared to normal internet browsing. Availability of single phone to different users has also made it very difficult for students to get the required study material and online access. Hence, the learning remains restricted with the limited availability of technological devices.

3) Unawareness Towards Digital Technology

Although smart classrooms have made their way in many urban educational setups, some rural areas still follow traditional teaching methods for their lessons.

It is not because they are not equipped but because the dependency is on digital technology and they are unaware of its usage and implementation. Teachers and students need proper training for the usage of certain digital equipment that will aid them in a comfortable teaching methodology.

4) Shortage of Teachers

This should not come as a surprise as we are very well aware of the fact that student to teacher ratio in India is 24:1.

As per a Human Resource Development Ministry report, "A low student-teacher ratio indicates the burden on a single teacher of teaching multiple students as well as the lack of time that each student gets. Apart from this simplistic effect, in an institution of higher learning, a smaller number of overburdened teachers are also unable to pursue any research or encourage their students to do so,"

This ratio should be improved and a large number of skilled and well-trained teachers must be employed so that every student receives complete attention even during an online class.

It feels great to see that many organizations have extended their helping hands and have emerged as solution providers in this situation. Organizations like Schooglink have made learning more convenient with the help of live as well as pre-loaded videos, notes, and test papers covering all major subjects from classes KG to XII. The added benefit is that they follow the respective state boards along with complete syllabus coverage of NCERT and CBSE that makes it best amongst the rest.