Online classes less productive in Meghalaya due to digital divide: Rymbui

Shillong, May 22: Meghalaya Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui on Friday admitted that there is a huge “digital divide” that led online classes less productive in the State, and made it clear that online teaching will not substitute classroom teaching.

Online classes are being conducted during the lockdown due to COVID-19.

“There is a digital divide among the students of different schools in the state especially with disruption of mobile phone connectivity, electricity and many parents cannot afford to have gadgets,” Rymbui informed the Assembly during Question Hour.

He also said that online classes will not substitute classroom teaching because of the digital divide and other factors.

“Our plan is when should schools be re-opened because classroom teaching is a must for students and not home schooling. We are planning to open the schools so that our children can go to school taking into consideration their health issue and education and how to plan the academic calendar,” he informed.

Replying to questions asked by Opposition Congress legislator, Zenith Sangma, the Minister said, many students in rural areas are unable to access to these classes in the absence of laptops, smart phones and computers.

He also informed that even teachers are not trained enough to conduct online classes.

Furthermore, Rymbui said that the government was aware that several students don’t have devices to access the online classes, even as he said that the government cannot help procure or subsidize such gadgets owing to financial constraints.

“We have 9,21,461 students (in the State) and if one Tablet cost only Rs 2000 we will be spending Rs 200 crore . As of now, it is difficult for the government to subsidize for 9 lakh students,” Rymbui said.

Asked a supplementary question by Sangma if class 9 to 12 standard students would be helped to procure gadgets to access online classes, Rymbui said there are plans.

“We have a plan, but we need the resources not less than Rs 150 crore. There are more than one lakh students at the higher secondary school leaving certificate level and more than 58 students at the secondary school leaving certificate level,” the Minister added.

He informed the Assembly that in the interim period, online classes are being conducted over smart phones, and computers and the Government has also tied up with Doordarshan Kendra and All India Radio to conduct online classes from Monday to Saturday.

On private schools not able to pay their staffs and seeking tuition fees from students, Rymbui said that there is a huge problem over this issue.

“Difficulties are being faced by students, parents and private schools. We will come up with a solution…it may not please everybody, but we will come with the best solution in one or two days,” the Minister assured the Assembly.