Challenges Young Learners Face in Accessing Online Education During Covid-19

While educators have geared up to deliver digital learning experiences, students have been working to adapt to their new reality, too. This means adjusting not only to life away from the classroom, in whatever location they find themselves now, but also to the new learning environment of the virtual classroom.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education dramatically. At the rate at which the change has happened, it is likely that the integration of digital technology in education will further accelerate, and online learning will eventually become an integral feature education ecosystems.

Thus far, however, this has foregrounded a set of challenges brought by social and economic inequity and the digital divide. Over a billion learners are out of the classroom worldwide. In India too, the unplanned and rapid move to online learning — with little preparation and without reliable internet access and/or technology has exacerbated existing barriers for students from socio-economically disadvantaged communities.

To get a peek into how learners are impacted — practically, physically, and mentally — by the school and higher education institutes closures, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we spoke to six students. These girls shared some surprising coping mechanisms and difficult realities they face. We hope their snippets will inform educators’ strategies and offer a glimpse of what’s on the other side of the screen.

Swaroop Arora, Jodhpur

Course: Fashion Design & Technology

Father’s occupation: Handicrafts businessman

“Life at home is chaos, I have siblings across age groups. If I stay at home, I can barely hear the facilitator,” says Swaroop.

In Jodhpur, Rajasthan, the pandemic has rendered all the six members of Swaroop’s family homebound. Swaroop, the eldest of four sisters, makes multiple trips to the temple next door to attend the online sessions held by the MyQuest program every day. 

Across India, young people, living in overcrowded homes seek out quiet commons like temples and parks to ensure their learning continues. While organizations like ours provide a learning opportunity, it is the will of these youth that triumphs all adversity at home and elsewhere.

 “It is a constant adjustment, but that is the only way ahead,” she says about the changes that pandemic has now brought in her learning.

Bhaghyashree Das, Guwahati

Course: Secretarial Practice, ITI Rehabari

 “Some day, I will probably have my own table,” says Bhagyashree.

Bhaghyashree Das from Guwahati, doesn’t know when she will get a table. Come rains, Bhagyashree’s house in the foothills of Senaighuli hills floods and the four-member family has more pressing concerns this monsoon than a table for their daughter.

Shivani, Ajmer

Course: Computer Operator and Programming Assistant

Father’s occupation: Unemployed

 “If you think it’s hot, then you will feel hot. I try to focus on my classes”, she says.

It is blisteringly hot in Ajmer, Rajasthan but Shivani can attend online classes only on the terrace. Despite living in a three-bedroom house, network issues force her to seek the sun. ” On days, when the temperature reaches 40-45, I sit on the staircase leading up to the terrace, where there is some shade,” adds Shivani.

Shivani can’t afford a higher data pack. Their household of 5 runs solely on the income of their mother, who works in the hospital.

Preeti, Samastipur

Preeti from Bihar’s Samastipur district dreams of becoming a police officer. She was studying in class 9 when the lockdown came into effect, and is now at home. She was automatically promoted to class 10, and worries about the Class 10 board exams, with no access to school or books. She struggles to find connectivity to access online learning and facilitation sessions run by our Secondary Schools program. In this picture, she is attending a session on Understanding Self and Career Aspirations.

Sampriti & Swikriti, Khurda

The online experience is good, but we find some subjects, for e.g.. Mathematics difficult to learn online. When we need some support to understand a math problem, the teacher sends us a video of how it’s solved; but if we still cannot understand it and need more support, we ask the teacher,” says Sampriti.

Sampriti and her twin sister Swikriti live in Khurda, Odisha. Their family only have one smartphone to use. During the lockdown, Sampriti – who wants to be an IAS Officer –  is attending online classes, but sometimes has to miss them when her sister needs to use the phone. At times, the family cannot afford a data recharge, and Sampriti and Swikriti misses out on their classes.

To explore options for navigating India’s digital access gap, the first of our Field Insights series under #Quest2Learn brings you a panel of experts to share attempted strategies and insights on what’s working, what isn’t and why.

Join us at 3pm tomorrow, August 20th, 2020: Register now!

A snippet from this article appears online on Jul. 11, 2020, of the Forbes India edition with the headline: How a pandemic changed everything for these students.

Author: thelearnerbyquest

Quest Alliance's space for reflection on the education sector

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