By Divya Jain
The whole world is adjusting to the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic by finding alternatives to the disruptions caused thus far. Corporations are allowing their workforces to work from home, while schools and colleges are moving classes online.
In India, people are relying heavily on strong internet connections, computers, or smartphones to get back to business during the new normal. The crisis has nudged students to pick up e-learning opportunities, as there is no end in sight. As the country takes to online education, the current pandemic is impacting rural students more than those who live in cities.
However, e-learning is transforming the sector even in remote rural areas. Tier-3 and tier-4 towns are upping the ante by investing in the enhancement of digital education processes. While many are making the most of what online learning offers, local authorities are finding it tough to integrate high-speed internet facilities. Moreover, people in rural areas have to also deal with intermittent power supply and older electronic devices, which are often a hindrance to seamless access.
Unfortunately, students in rural India are denied the newest devices and levels of accessibility to online content that urban Indians enjoy daily. Unlike their counterparts in cities, a lower percentage of students in villages possess desktop or laptop computers. They depend on their family members’ mobile phones for learning and attending classes, making it an arduous exercise. Watching small screens to consume as much information as possible for long hours could be detrimental to students’ health.
Furthermore, purchasing data plans for learning could also incur a lot of expenses for families who face financial constraints. It could further affect the participation levels of both teachers and students concerning live classes.
Digital literacy and the digital divide have been serious concerns for our country for over a decade. Many teachers and students in rural areas are not able to match up to the technical skills of educationalists and students in cities.
They face roadblocks when moving from offline to online education, which could be a reason for discontentment amongst rural communities. Collective efforts of civil society organisations, policymakers and the government are required to create a user-friendly digital interface so that teachers and students find it conducive for uninterrupted learning.
On the bright side, all the stakeholders have made significant investments in improving access to digital services and e-learning; building on pre-existing infrastructure could ease the process of digital inclusion. Teachers would be able to transition smoothly if they receive the requisite support. Local and national governments must work together with the IT and edtech sectors to speed up the process of bringing innovative and cost-effective online education tools to rural India.
The author is founder & CEO of Safeducate, a skills training provider