Education on pause: Poor connectivity hampers online learning in Kiphire

A view of a school building in Kiphire. Due to poor connectivity, students in the district are unable to access online classes during the lockdown following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Morung Photo: For representational purpose)
A view of a school building in Kiphire. Due to poor connectivity, students in the district are unable to access online classes during the lockdown following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Morung Photo: For representational purpose)

P Achumse Yingbithongrü
Kiphire | August 5

Schools and institutions in Kiphire district have not been able to comply with the direction by the Directorate of School Education (DoSE) Nagaland to conduct online classes due to of poor internet connectivity.

The DoSE’s direction was issued with the objective of ensuring the normal flow of education, amid COVID-19 lockdown.

Instead, teachers are connecting with students remotely and giving out study materials through WhatsApp and for those students who do not have access to smartphone, teachers are taking extra trouble by printing out hard copies for them.

Online classes in school

In comparison to other districts, Kiphire despite being an ‘Aspirational District’ continues to consistently suffer from the chronic problem of basic connectivity and the worst affected are the students who do not have access to online class.

Yanglicho, a teacher, remarked that the concept of online class formulated by DoSE may suit students from cities but for districts like Kiphire, where internet speed is at a snail pace, it is virtually impossible.

Even sending study material to students through WhatsApp takes hours to download, he said. 

“We are extremely concerned about the academic career of students as majority of the students from Kiphire don’t have smartphone and because of that we have to print study material for them from our own pocket. If we had good internet connectivity and good infrastructure things would have been different,” he rued.

Hurdles faced by students

Majority of the students in this part of the state are children of daily wage earners. However, with continued lockdown, they have been out of work for months and many have been left penniless.

As online classes require students to have smartphone to get study material through WhatsApp, it poses another problem for the parents - to buy the gadgets for their children when they are hardly managing their family.

Alive, a student of class 6 said, “I prefer regular class rather than getting study material through WhatsApp. It is difficult to understand and write notes on WhatsApp as I am not accustomed to using smartphone. It is a new thing for me.”

Concerned parents

Expressing concern over the future of students because of closure of schools for months, Kanglise stated that it is would have a serious bearing on the academic career of students as most of them have lost touch with their books and would be holding false notion that  they would pass without studying even in the next academic year as well.

“It was difficult to keep children attached to books even when traditional classes were going on, however now it will take lot of care and assistance from parents to get their children back to study room once schools reopen,” the concerned parent expressed.

Problem faced by schools and institutions

Sharing the problem faced by schools and institutions in Kiphire, Thomas, President Kiphire District Private Schools Association (KDPSA) said, “Facilities are extremely scarce in Kiphire and internet connection is virtually non-existent in Kiphire and that is why we are not in a position to conduct any online class.”

Keeping in mind the hardship faced by parents, schools will be waiving off fees for two months for those who pay school fee before August 31, he informed.  

Stating that it was difficult to get hold of every student as some are staying in villages where there is no network, village councils have been requested to inform the students to reach Kiphire by the first week of August.

Most schools would be conducting online mid-term exam in August, as announced by DoSE earlier. 

It is clear that the virtual classes initiative may be suitable for students in cities but in a district like Kiphire where development and basic connectivity are at its nadir, online classes, ironically,  would remain only on paper.