As school education came to a grinding halt amid the ongoing pandemic, Odisha started an initiative to make learning possible amid social distancing. The state government launched YouTube live-streaming classes for standard 1-10 from June 21. While online classes for 1-8 are being conducted in eight districts, students of standard 9th and 10th from all 30 districts can avail e-classes. Held from Monday to Friday, classes are being streamed at different time slots for different standards. Odisha School Education Programme Authority (OSEPA) has created 10 channels for different standards. Khordha, Balangir, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Ganjam, Koraput Puri, Dhenkanal, Sundargarh, Nayagarh, Bhadrak, Balasore and Sambalpur are the districts from where the live-streaming classes are being conducted. According to Hindustan Times, the programme will be held till July 2, but as there is uncertainty over schools being reopened, this e-learning mode can get an extension.

While the initiative by the Department of School and Mass Education of Odisha is applaudable, it actually lacks feasibility. Below we have listed down some points that make the implementation of this initiative questionable.

Lack of Awareness

The dismal response to the latest digital learning program is due to limited awareness among parents. Despite being equipped with internet connections and smartphones, students of elementary level are not attending the classes because of less-informed parents. The not so tech-savvy lot of the older generation is also facing difficulty adopting the e-learning method.

Not Pocket-Friendly

The majority of Odisha comprises of rural population. Buying a smartphone is a far-fetched dream for those who rely on government schemes and programmes for their day-to-day meals. Above all, getting costly data packs to ensure the smooth running of classes is not possible for poor. The pandemic has adversely affected the livelihood of people and YouTube classes will only burden them financially.

Unprepared Teachers

While the programme was scheduled to be implemented on June 21, reportedly, teachers were engaged in a door-to-door survey of school students from June 17-19. The report of the survey, which was conducted to note down the number of drop-outs and ensure full participation in online classes, was submitted on June 20. With only a day left, teachers didn’t have time to discuss the implementation of the classes.

Secretary of All Odisha Lower Secondary Teachers Association in the district, Nirmalendu Shome said, “We have welcomed this programme but proper implementation is doubtful because of lack of planning among the teachers. They have been pressed into service for doorstep surveys besides inadequate resources.” Teachers are also struggling with this new mode of teaching as they have less or no knowledge of the technicalities involved.

Digital Divide

According to Hindustan Times, students of Project Upper Primary school in Ankadeli area of Lamtaput block of Koraput district are going to school amid the pandemic to attend the online classes. Koraput district education officer Ramachandra Nahak is not aware of children attending school but admitted network issues in blocks like Narayanpatna, Bandhugaon, Lamtaput and Boipariguda. As per Odisha Economic Survey 2018-19 report, over 20% of the 51311 villages in Odisha have no access to mobile phone connectivity. The State also reported 28.22 internet subscribers for a population of 100, which is less as compared to the national average of 38.02. It simply proves that the state government has launched the programme despite knowing the wide digital divide.

Around 60% of students reside in extremely remote areas, some of which are not even accessible through roads, leave alone an internet connection. Hence for them, teachers have to ensure the implementation of the programme. It seems the state government didn’t consider them to be a part of this digital initiative while giving it a thumbs up.

Several reports and statistics of OSEPA show the not-so-encouraging response to the YouTube live-streaming classes. Though the education department claimed that approx. 22 lakh students had access to online classes last year, the total views of all the 10 YouTube channels of OSEPA are not even half of it. Only 16 percent of students have access to live-streamed classes, officials admit. Students, particularly those belonging to the elementary level, are skipping classes on a regular basis despite having smartphone and internet access, confirms OSEPA State Project Director Bhupendra Singh Poonia.