The Union human resource development ministry has this week begun asking statesto compile data on the number of students who may not have access to computers or computer-like devices and the Internet, people in the know told ET. The move is learnt to have come after a nudge by the Prime Minister’s Office. The HRD ministry did not respond till press time Tuesday to ET’s queries.
While a recent Unicef report said more than 270 million students in India have been impacted by the school closure due to Covid-19 and that only 24% Indian households have Internet access, there is no clear government assessment yet on the subject.
The HRD ministry is learnt to be making a first attempt towards assessing how many students exactly may be faced with serious disadvantages without access to devices and the net. This, it is felt, will help both the Centre and states come up with a better-targeted strategy.
Top officials from the ministries of HRD, telecom and electronics and IT are learnt to have been part of the discussion held last month on bridging the digital divide. It is gathered that directions were given to ensure Internet access and availability of devices at every panachayat office and government educational institution. While the existing Bharatnet scheme envisaged optical fibre access to every panchayat, it is yet to cover all areas.
ET gathers that directions have been given to expand connectivity on fast track and within the next two months, so that children can avail of learning modules until schools reopen. The HRD ministry is also, meanwhile, working on guidelines for digital education with specific provisions for children without Internet and device access. It has advocated TV- and radio-based programmes beaming out at panchayat community halls, besides teachers addressing student queries on a weekly basis over the phone or WhatsApp.
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