'Impoverished students in remote areas and even in the city are missing out on digital classes as they cannot afford smartphones, internet connections or televisions'
It’s been almost two months since Tania Khatun and Raisul Islam of Khulna stopped going to classes after schools across Bangladesh shut down on March 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I haven’t been able to attend online classes without a means of accessing the internet from our house and we don’t own a television either,” said Tania, a resident of the metropolitan city’s Raipara, and a student of Sonatola Govt Primary School. “Besides, I haven’t had much interest in reading my books since school shut down.”
Raisul Islam, a student of Gazirhat Govt Primary school in Digholia upazila, said their family owns only one mobile phone to make calls with which isn’t a smartphone and so couldn’t be used to attend online classes. “My father is a day labourer and smartphones and TVs are luxuries we can't afford and the little we save is spent on food and medicines.”
The government has been broadcasting classes for students from Class 6 to Class 10 on Sangsad Television with a view to keeping the students in touch with education, as well as keeping them at home amid the outbreak of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the district administration and education department have been holding online classes on Facebook and Youtube for primary and high school students in Khulna.
City Girls’ School Headmaster Md Ziaur Rahman Shadhin said: “The government has taken an innovating initiative but it is far from being effective as most students are from impoverished backgrounds.”
There are numerous students who lack access to online or televised classes in a country where the digital divide is wide – especially in remote and rural places, where most families are even unaware of digital education, he added.
“Impoverished students in remote areas and even in the city are missing out on digital classes as they cannot afford smartphones, internet connections or televisions. Only the handful of students who are from well off families are able to attend the digital classes,” said Prof Anwarul Kadir, an educator in Khulna.
"The government should install televisions at schools in remote areas, where many students from poor backgrounds can attend televised classes while abiding by social distancing measures," he added.