Many see it as impractical while dept calls for collective effort
Morung Express News
Kohima | August 14
The Department of School Education (DoSE), Nagaland recently announced free distribution of pen-drive to all government schools. According to the Department, this decision was taken following requests from various quarters about the inability to access videos through internet due to connectivity issues.
However, the initiative has also invited criticism for failing to take into account various practical realities of students in rural settings.
For Kegwayhun Tep, Education Secretary, Naga Student's Federation (NSF), the initiative is “discriminatory by nature.”
“The pen-drive distribution is more or less the same as online classes. Because those who have access to computers or own smartphones will only be able to access the lessons. Even if the government provides free pen-drive, if 50% of students do not have access to required facilities that is not fair,” he stated.
Stating that 50% of students in Nagaland are based in rural areas whose parents are not able to afford smart phones for their children, the student leader said that policy makers need to consider the practical realities of the students especially in rural areas. Besides connectivity challenges, Tep also pointed out that most rural students do not have much option on technological facilities.
Lack of computers, smartphones
A teacher at the Government Middle School in Zapami village also echoed scepticism on the applicability of this decision in villages. The school received its first computer this week from the department. With a single computer, the teacher expressed concern. “We don't even know if all the students are going to share that single computer. There are many teachers who are not residents of their posting. Those teachers are not allowed to enter the village. Are the students going to handle it on their own?” questioned the teacher.
With majority of its students without smartphones, the teachers in this village have instead been sending notes to students. “Since we are not allowed in the village, we have been sending notes and few teachers residing in the village are distributing them to the students. The student bodies are also helping out,” said the teacher.
While appreciating the government's initiative, Lipichem, a member of the private schools in Kiphire however questioned the practicality of the initiative.
“There are only countable computers in the villages. Who will be willing to offer their personal computers to be used for several hours? And then there is the problem of electricity in places like Kiphire,” states Lipichem, adding that Kiphire town receives only about 4 hours of electricity daily.
A collective responsibility
Meanwhile Shanavas C, IAS, Principal Director, Department of School Education, said that the pen-drive distribution is an additional measure taken by the department.
“This is an addition to the online lessons. We are not saying the students should have laptops or a computer; that is not practical. But we think at least, student bodies and churches will own computers, so we are requesting them to help out the student in the village. It is a collective responsibility,” stated Shanavas.
With 1,987 government schools in Nagaland, the department is currently making assessments on the pen-drive requirements, where schools functioning from class five and above will be receiving the devices. The amount of pen-drive will depend on the enrolment of students and classes.
Following this initiative, Shanavas informed that accessing the video lessons and materials will depend from each school or village.
“They can call the students in different batches and timings and watch the video maintaining all protocols,” stated the Principal Director.
‘Have to try every option’
In the wake of the pandemic, the Principal Director said that at present there are 3 options—online classes, distribution of pen-drives and offline methods via distribution of notes.
“It is a combination of everything. It is combination of online method, pen-drive and offline method. We have to try every option. We understand the practical difficulties. That's why when the first two options are ruled out; we can opt for offline method,” he stated.
He informed that the department is giving continuous instructions to teachers to help students through worksheets, notes and personal monitoring. He added that the department is also developing a mobile application for the teachers to monitor their work.
The Principal Director informed that the pen-drive will be distributed by first or second week of September. “We will be placing the orders in another four /five day. It will require another two-three weeks as we wouldn't be able to purchase the bulk load of pen-drive in Nagaland,” he stated.