By Pramila Bisunke, Project Manager- Galli Galli
Janaki’s mother uses a keypad phone. Now Janaki has online classes while they barely have radio and television at home. Her mother ran to neighbouring houses to ask for help for Janki’s online classes. One of her neighbours agreed to help by allowing Janaki to have an online class in a day. After a couple of days the lady in the neighbourhood found it difficult to accompany Janaki throughout four different classes in the day. Besides, she has her own household chores to do. Janaki’s mother is not literate enough to accompany her for online classes so after two-three days of online class Janaki’s mother decides to stop sending her for online classes. After that Janaki stays at home without attending classes waiting for schools to reopen. This led Janki out of learning for the entire year.
In a family of four both parents own second hand smartphones. Most of the time father remains outside, only mother’s phone is available for the mandatory online classes for two siblings. Someday they attend two classes each out of four in a day. Sometimes they keep on fighting to decide who attends class first. Buying a new smartphone is beyond reach due to economic issues. However, after nearly four months of online classes, the mother borrows money from a cooperative in her village to buy a smartphone for online classes of two kids. After that the kids were able to have classes on separate phones and with peace. But time and again power goes off and the loading balance time and again is another story. Now with the reopening of schools mother is looking for some to buy that smart phone she bought during lockdown for online classes.
These were only some examples of digital device access and education during the peak of pandemic. These stories are not from the rural part of Nepal but from the municipalities that are only 13 KM away from central Kathmandu. The few months of pandemic made us think of online education and the mandatory online classes started during the COVID-19 pandemic has paused already with the reopening of schools. The children are back to classrooms once again. The news and projects related to digital classrooms are often in the news but reflecting back to Janki’s story, will the students like her be able to get her right to education, a basic human right?
The smart classroom is bringing children back to the classroom once again again but what are the ways to connect children to learning platforms when they are at home? The two case stories mentioned above challenges stakeholders working on education and digitization to rethink about the discussions of smart classrooms, online learning platforms as envisioned by “Digital Framework Nepal 2019”. As it also aims to “prepare human capital to capture new economic opportunities through the creation of an enhanced teaching and learning environment. This entails the use of digital technologies to support teaching, enrich the learning experience, and improve educational outcomes.” Does being back to the classroom really fulfills the aim of Digital Framework ?