Kerala has come up with a solution for the 2.6 lakh-odd students who have no access to a television or smart phone or the internet: Neighbourhood Study Centre.
This was announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during his customary sunset briefing in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. These centres, which will be provided with a television to air the Victers Channel through which classes are being provided, will be set up in local bodies where children have no access to modern communication tools.
These centres will be more like a classroom but large enough to accommodate students from more than one schools in a panchayat area. Observing social distancing norms will be a challenge. Large community halls in panchayat areas or libraries would soon be converted for the purpose.
The chief minister said Kerala State Financial Enterprises (KSFE) will subsidise 75 per cent of the cost of the new television set in the proposed Neighbourhood Study Centres. The money for the purpose will be given from the salaries being deducted from government employees and teachers.
It is still not clear whether the KSFE will fully absorb 75 per cent of the cost of the television set or would provide loan for the amount at low or no interest. A source said the details were being worked out.
As for the remaining 25 per cent of the cost of the television set and other establishment costs, the concerned local body will have to find sponsors.
The KSFE has yet another scheme of providing laptops at subsidised costs through Kudumbashree units. The benefit is for Kudumbashree community development centres that had joined KSFE's micro chitty scheme. The local bodies can tap into this scheme, too.
These Neighbourhood Study Centres could also make use of the 1.2 lakh laptops, 7,000 projectors and 4,545 television sets that have been obtained as part of the government's Hi-Tech project.
The chief minister said the students and parents need not worry that they could not tune into the Victers channel on June 1. "The same classes will be re-telecast on the channel on June 8," he said.
In a study conducted by the General Education Department it was found that nearly 6 per cent of the total students in government and aided schools in the state did not have access to television with cable connection or computer/mobile phone with Internet.
In other words, more that 2.6 lakh students had no facilities for online classes. The data was collected from over 43.76 lakh pre-primary to Plus Two students in government schools.
The maximum number of students without access to such facilities was in Wayanad district – 21,653, and this accounted for 15 per cent of the total number of students in the district. The least was in Alappuzha district – 6,683, accounting for 2.94 per cent of the total number of students in the district.