Odisha Universities And Colleges Rue Troubles Of Online Classes

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has thrown millions of students and teachers across the world into looming uncertainty. Many privileged enough, and from reputed institutions have tried to adjust and adapt to the digital revolution, fashioning themselves onto the bandwagon of regular online class attendees. Yet, when it comes to Odisha, several state-run universities and colleges are now in the midst of a classic Shakespearean dilemma: to proceed or not to proceed with online classes?

Statistically, Odisha remains one of the most backward regions in India, with digital penetration rates abysmally low in the interior regions and the hinterlands. It is also one of the poorest, earning itself the twenty-fifth spot on the list of Indian states arranged by their NSDP per capita. Connectivity is minimal, and most of the students from tribal regions who attend classes in universities run by the State do not possess a smartphone. Even then, if a fraction amongst such students has such a facility with them, an absence of proper teacher training on conducting online classes makes the mode seem lacklustre.

“We know that thousands of poor and tribal students are studying in our state-run universities and colleges. They live in rural and remote areas of the state where the internet is a major issue. Leave alone internet, many villages in the state do not have even mobile phone network coverage. How can we expect online classes for all?” a Computer Science professor from a state-run university commented.

The Odisha government has not clarified on the date for resumption of educational activities in institutions across the state. At present, all UG and PG programmes remain suspended in the offline mode, although the online platform for holding classes have been permitted. Earlier, it had given a tentative date of 17th June for re-opening, but then extended it to July 31st as COVID-19 infections continue to rise.

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