In the absence of high speed mobile internet services and few households having access to smartphones, the Jammu and Kashmir education department’s initiative to start ‘radio classes’ is helping students in Doda district to complete their syllabus despite the coronavirus lockdown.
The local station of All India Radio — AIR Bhadarwah, which covers almost the entire Doda district, is airing one-and-a-half hours of educational content daily since May 29 on frequency 101 MHz.
The students and their parents, especially those living in rural areas with very little income who could not afford private tuition, were a worried lot after all the schools were shut for a prolonged period due to the nationwide lockdown in March.
The schools in the hilly Doda district usually remain closed from December to March for winter vacations due to harsh climatic conditions, while March to September is the productive period for completion of syllabus before the term-end examination up to 12th standard in October-November.
For the welfare of students, the authorities had started online classes from March 27 and accordingly all the schools of the district were linked with it.
However, data collected by the education department showed that only 55 per cent students in the district had access to internet and smartphones.
“As per the direction of the principal secretary of school education, Asgar Samoon, and director education, Jammu, Anuradha Gupta, we started online classes in the district by linking 598 schools but after collecting the data, it came to light that out of 63,406 students, only 37,837 had access to Internet and smartphones,” Nodal officer, radio classes district Doda, Anis Ahmed told PTI.
He said to bridge the gap and reach out to the remaining 25,569 students, majority of whom belong to BPL families and residing in far off hills of the district, a request was made to Prasar Bharti to provide a time slot on AIR Bhadarwah and accordingly, daily virtual radio classes were started from May 29 for students of 9th to 12th standard.
In-charge of monitoring cell and coordinator of radio classes, Rana Arif Hamid said, “We were fully aware of the reach of the radio in these hills but the overwhelming response we are getting was never expected.”
“As of now, in addition to the students who do not have access to internet or a smartphone, over 45,000 students are benefited by the radio classes,” he said.
Meanwhile, students from different parts of the district are enjoying the new experience of learning and said that they are religiously attending the radio classes every morning.
“My father is a daily-wage labourer and lockdown has left him jobless. We can’t afford a smartphone and were worried about our studies after online classes started. However, the radio classes are a blessing in disguise and all my siblings and cousins attend them daily,” Rizwana Bano, an 11th class student of village Sartingal, said.
Expressing similar views, 12th class student Rameez Ahmad of Kursari village said radio classes are of great help in absence of regular schools. “Hope this arrangement will continue till the reopening of the schools,” he said.