As India’s schools go online sold a cow to buy a smartphone. The cow was his only asset of Kumar. Last week he sold it for Rs 6,000 (80 80), almost all of which he spent on the device. “My neighbors had a smartphone but my kids are reluctant to study there every day,” Kumar, 3, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the hill town of Palampur. “Kumar was said, he was worried about their education, So he sold the cow.”
India is the second-largest smartphone market in the world after China, and nearly one billion mobile users in the country have already got a phone using the internet. Neither he nor his wife was online and so far only their children are using it.
With no clear signs that schools will reopen soon, children have access to the Internet to follow classes, forcing more low-income families to scrape money together to buy a cheap or second-hand smartphone for the first time.
With a school population of about 240 million, this could prove to be an incentive for new users to sell low-cost devices, industry analysts said, adding that handsets used in rural areas are showing signs of increasing purchases.
The Indian smartphone market has grown over the last two or three years, largely due to replacement purchases, said Novender Singh, research director at International Data Corporation. For many basic phone users, jumping from digital to taboo is still expensive:
“less than Rs 1,000 is the cost of the Basic phone” so how can their users buy a smartphone for Rs 3,000 or Rs 4,000. Even a screen replacement will cost them more than Rs 1,000,” Singh said.
Digital Divide A study by McKinsey in 17 countries found that only Indonesia is digitizing faster than India.
But despite the rapid growth of Internet access, the advent of distance school education under lockdown has shed light on the country’s uninterrupted digital divide. The suicide of a teenager who could not attend online classes due to lack of television or smartphone drew attention to the plight of families who could not even afford a cheap smartphone.
In the Pune district of western India, teacher Nagnath Bibhu published a blog post asking for donations of old smartphones for his students, most of whom are members of poor families. India began easing its tough week-long coronavirus lockdown in June, but restrictions remain in place in many parts of the country as the number of confirmed cases has risen relentlessly in the past week, surpassing one million last week.
In the meantime, teachers are sending homework via WhatsApp or giving virtual classes in Zoom, but the lack of smartphones is not the only obstacle to online schooling. In Panchgani in western Maharashtra, chemistry teacher Moumita Bhattacharjee is working on bad connections by recording her lessons – complete with a blackboard to give a classroom feel – so that her students can download them later.
Concerns over poor connectivity, phone prices, and data plans, as well as extra screen time, are prompting authorities and promoters to consider ways to teach offline. Customized lessons for students in grades one through twelve will be broadcast on television and radio under the “One Class One Channel” initiative planned by the Federal Department of Human Resources.
Some states are already broadcasting television lessons, and a federal official – who did not want to be identified – said the government was working on a solution that would last “even if everything is normal.”
Education Nonprofit First, which works with more than 12,000 communities across 19 states in India, WhatsApp began sending texts and homework via SMS instead of video to benefit families with conventional mobiles.
Smithen Breed, director of the first program, said members of his team phoned the parents and instructed them on educational tasks such as counting kitchen utensils. They enlisted volunteers in the villages to teach over loudspeakers.
‘Keep in touch’
However, millions of children, especially those from the poorest families, have dropped out of school. A recent survey of more than 600 migrant workers by the non-profit Caritas India found that 46% of their children dropped out of school during the lockout. Pune teacher Bibhu said his contact with the children of migrant brick kiln workers who had lost their jobs due to the lockdown.
Despite his daily fight over the blurry video, interrupted video due to inefficient connectivity, Bibhute said it was important to continue the virtual class until the solution was offline. “It is important for us (students) to stay connected or be sent to the farm to do their work and parents will consider schools unimportant if they start receiving money from their child,” he said.
Gautam Suresh, 10, was sitting on the floor of a room in an isolated room in Mumbai when his father gave him a class and his parents bought him and his two siblings for Rs 15,000. Suresh’s father, who worked as a security guard, spent more than a month’s salary on the new phone, the family’s second smartphone, which he aims to pay in six monthly installments.
Suresh said while his mother was cooking rice, “I never thought I would get a branded phone. Our parents bought it for our studies, but I understand their problem.” The family’s three children were using their father’s phone for classes, but calls often interrupted their lessons for expensive purchases.
For Suresh, though, the glowing smartphone is a bad replacement for the classroom. “At school, I can’t ask my teacher as many questions as I can,” he said.
News source: bdnews24.com