Published: 19th January 2022
Digital Divide: Fear of dropout strikes again in Chennai corporation schools after being shut down
Some school principals pointed out that subjects like English and Mathematics can pose a major challenge for those students who are deprived of internet services
Schools in Chennai are back in lockdown and, with that, the fears of the long-lasting impact that the digital divide may bring on the marginalised students of the city corporation schools have once again taken education officials and teachers by storm. They now see themselves grappling with the question of how to make education accessible to all in order to prevent dropouts. While corporation officials said that the dropout percentage in the last two years has been relatively low, they revealed a worrisome trend — it is mostly the children of migrant labourers who do not return after prolonged school closure.
"Teaching them might be a challenge in these times but we have asked class teachers to remain in touch with students, so as to keep their connection to learning alive even when schools are shut," said an education officer with the Chennai Corporation.
Even though senior corporation officials told The New Indian Express that there will be a detailed plan chalked out within this week for students to continue with their academics at ease, teachers are not as optimistic about it — they believe that the digital divide narrows down options for corporation school students. It was only this academic year that corporation schools registered a record enrollment of over one lakh admissions.
Some school principals that the Express spoke to pointed out that subjects like English and Mathematics can pose a major challenge for those students who are deprived of internet services. The district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Elementary School Teachers Federation, A Justin, said that the only way out for such students is self-learning.
However, he said that children learn better in a group environment. Justin said that Illam Thedi Kalvi volunteers conduct various activities within the corporation school premises, on open grounds or on verandahs. "We have proposed that these classes be advanced from 2 to 4 pm because there are no physical classes now," he said. However, he is quick to add a note of concern. He said, "There is a fear of COVID-19 spread so we don't know for how long it is feasible to conduct these classes." It is a general trend in the corporation schools that those who stay in close proximity to their school attend Illam Thedi Kalvi classes while those who stay far away miss out on them.