The government’s decision to run distance-learning programmes after it shut down educational institutions amid coronavirus outbreak is gradually bringing out the social disparity.
Only students with smartphones and digital devices equipped with internet connections are able to take advantage of the online classes, leaving behind those from poor families.
This is causing frustration among low-income families and those living below the poverty line struggling to make the ends meet and coronavirus has brought economic activities to almost a grinding halt. Families are now more concerned about feeding the hungry mouths and cannot afford to spend money on gadgets.
Officials concerned in Khulna said they are planning to provide hand notes to students who cannot afford to attend online classes.
The government is running a distance-learning programme through Sangsad Television. Apart from this, classes are being taken on Facebook and YouTube for primary and secondary-level students in Khulna.
The programme is being run through a Facebook page and YouTube channel – Digital Primary Education Khulna and Digital Secondary Education Khulna – in a joint venture of the district administration and the education department.
Zakia Sultana, mother of a student from Raipara area in the city, said it is difficult to run a family by working at someone else’s house. “When there’s no money for children’s coaching classes, how can we afford [buying gadgets] for online classes. Those classes are for the rich,” she said.
There are 150 students from class three to seven in City Girls School run by Khulna City Corporation. Of them, only 25 students can afford online classes through smartphone sets.
A number of school students said they were not getting any benefit of online classes as they lack digital facilities. Many poor families do not have TV sets either.
Shah Ziaur Rahman Swadhin, headmaster of City Girls School, said before taking such an initiative, it was necessary to make sure every student will be benefitted. Otherwise, those below the poverty line will be deprived of.
Prof Anwarul Qadir, a prominent educationist from Khulna, said the online education programmes have failed to generate interest among the few students who have smartphone sets and internet connections. He said the effectiveness of the programme was in doubt.
"It’s difficult for primary and secondary schools to succeed in online education where universities are not succeeding in online classes."
Expected to be more successful
District Primary Education Officer SM Sirajuddoha said students lacking smartphones or access to necessary gadgets will not be benefitted from the classes.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Education and ICT) Golam Mainuddin Hasan said every family has smartphones. “There’re plans to give hand notes to those who don't have that (access to smartphones and other necessary gadgets) at all,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Helal Hossain said online education has been introduced for students to keep the education system running during the coronavirus crisis.
“It’s true that not everyone has mobile and internet services. But more people have mobile and internet services than those watching Sangsad TV,” he said.
“So, we hope that online education on Facebook and YouTube will be more successful than the TV classes.”