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Parents, teachers scramble for ways to teach as e-learning remains a dream in rural India

New Delhi: In a newly acquired daily ritual, students in Haryana's Jhamri village open their textbooks at the sight of the cart that arrives near their homes, filling the vacuum left by closure of schools due to the lockdown and lack of digital infrastructure such as feeble internet connectivity.

To maintain social distancing, the students take notes from their homes as a teacher imparts lessons using the loudspeaker attached to the cart.

The innovative way to ensure that students catch up with the syllabus they have missed since classes were suspended has been initiated by Satyanarayan Sharma, who runs a school in the village in the state's Jhajjar district.

"The bigger issue is not the effect on students' learning levels but that they should not drop out, Sharma said.

I have arranged for a loudspeaker system on a cart. The teachers are asked to turn-wise go with the cart and park it at a feasible location and impart lessons from there. It cannot match up to classroom learning but will ensure some learning," he said.

This strange new way of educating school students is not uncommon in the country's rural parts. The lockdown induced by COVID-19 in March prompted schools and colleges to move to the virtual world for teaching and learning activities. But weak internet penetration has turned e-education into a distant dream for many children in the rural areas.

As per official statistics, there are over 35 crore students in the country. But it is not clear how many of them have access to digital devices and the internet.

Ghanshyambhai, a teacher in Janan village, Gujarat, has started using the public announcement system of the village panchayat to share stories, songs, guidelines for parents on how to deal with children during the lockdown period, importance of exercising and much

more.

"During this challenging time, we can't expect students to just grab their parents' smartphones and start attending classes, he told the news agency. He said while it is not possible to explain complex subjects like mathematical problems through loudspeakers, the method is at least ensuring that learning is not totally disrupted.

"I also announce when I'll be at Panchayat Bhawan so students or parents who want to clear any doubts or to interact can see me there, while maintaining social distancing," he added.

In Maharashtra's Bhadole village, teachers have identified students who have access to smartphones and have formed groups clubbing them with students without any

access.

"It works if one among ten students has access to a phone and lives near the other students' homes," said Shano Devi, one of the teachers in the group.

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