Coimbatore: A week has lapsed since T Arunkumar, who completed Class IX from the government high school in Aliyar, received Class X books from the school. But, he is yet to start studies – not because of lack of intent but because he doesn’t have a smart phone to scan QR codes in textbooks to access detailed videos on each module in a chapter for grasping them better. He also won’t be able to access classes on Kalvi TV, the state government’s education channel launched on July 14, because he neither has a television nor electricity connection at home.
Arun, who resides at Anbu Nagar, a tribal settlement in Aliyar, says, “In Class IX textbooks too there were similar QR codes. Our teacher used to let us watch the videos on his smartphone. And it helped me understand each lesson better. But this year, the schools are not open. My parents are daily wage labourers and we don’t have a television or a smartphone at home. I don’t know how I am going to manage it.”
Only a few of the 36 families in the tribal settlement have electricity connection. Majority of them are living in huts.
Another student M Ganesh said they used to visit their friends’ houses at times to watch television. “Because of the pandemic situation, we are not allowed to go to their house now.”
Arun’s father R Thangavel said they were ready to pay both the deposit and bimonthly tariff if officials provide them electricity connection. “We had made several representations to higher officials in this regard, but to no avail.”
The situation isn’t any different for the students from Ellappa Colony, Puliyankandi, Kattupatti, Kuzhipatti, Kumatti and several other tribal settlements in and around Anaimalai taluk.
Kaliamma, who is residing with her children at her workplace at Gopalpathy, said, “My children – one in Class IX and another in Class VII – were studying in a residential school in Valparai. They were sent home after the lockdown. The hut we have put up on farmland does not have electricity connection or television. Do we have an option other than to wait for the school to reopen?”
V S Paramasivam, district president of Tamil Nadu Tribal People Association, said the government should make some alternative arrangements for unprivileged students, who would otherwise gradually lose interest in studies. In that case, he said, all the efforts that the state government, teachers and volunteers have been making for upliftment of tribal community would go in vein.
“The government should deploy at least a teacher for four to five tribal settlements to teach students the basics to retain their interest in studies. If the government fails to intervene, the dropout rate would be high,” he said.
When contacted, Chief Educational Officer P Usha said, “We will inquire into how many students in the area need help. We would see whether we can give them network facilities individually, so that they can access Kalvi TV programmes online on YouTube. If that’s not possible, we would arrange for solar panels and television in some common facility in their locality, where students can visit and watch Kalvi TV.”