Community schools in Jhapa reach students through radio programmesAlthough the schools are running online classes, most students cannot participate without an internet connection.
Dhulabari Secondary School, a model community school in Jhapa, has been running online classes for the students from grades seven to 10 since June 21.
However, Janaki Kafar, a 10th grader, does not have much to gain from the school’s initiative. She does not have the means to participate in virtual classes since she does not own a smartphone or a laptop.
“We don’t have a phone at home so I can’t participate in the classes,” she said. “But I am taking alternative classes through the radio,” said Kafar.
For students like Kafar, the school has introduced an alternate learning method. They are running educational programmes on the radio for students with no access to the internet.
The school had surveyed the status of students on whether they could attend online classes or not before the start of the programme. It then distributed radios to those students who had no access to the internet. The school sought help from the local mothers’ groups to facilitate students in their studies.
There are seven mothers’ groups in Dhulabari who have taken the responsibility of organising classes wherein they listen to educational content on the radio with a group of students. The school has provided four radio sets to each group.
Mahendra Bilas Luintel, headmaster at the school, said they distributed radios to students who don’t have a computer and internet facility at home.
“Local FMs and radio stations in Jhapa have been broadcasting educational programmes on a daily basis. Students with no internet connection at home could turn to radio broadcasting and listen to the programmes. We have managed radio sets for the impoverished students so that they don’t miss out on learning,” said Luintel.
According to the school data, there are around 650 students from grade seven to 10. “There’s a low participation of students in online classes. Students from impoverished backgrounds cannot afford to attend virtual classes,” said Yograj Adhikari, coordinator of online classes at the school. “Less than half of the total students are attending online classes on a daily basis. So the broadcast of educational content on radio has come to be of much help to those without access to the internet.”
The Province 1 government has provided a smartboard to Dhulabari Secondary School to run online classes.
“Online classes can only be taken if there is electricity and internet connection. It’s very difficult here to access them,” said Devendra Paudel, another teacher at the school.
Some private schools in Ramdhuni Municipality in Sunsari too have started online classes but they haven’t been as effective as expected, said Shiva Kumar Rai, the principal at Rising Star English School.
“A majority of students don’t have an internet connection at home. Although we started running online classes 15 days ago, the participation is lower than expected,” Rai said.
On the other hand, most of the government-run schools in the municipality have neither made any plans on resuming classes nor have worked on any alternate method to teaching-learning activities.
Rajan Kumar Gelal, education officer at Ramdhuni Municipality in Sunsari, said, “We have no plans for any educational activities now. We are waiting for the directive of the Education Ministry. We cannot make any decision without the directive.”
There are 28 community schools in Ramdhuni Municipality.
Meanwhile, Dapcha Secondary School in Ward No. 8 of Namobuddha Municipality, Kavre, has started a ‘Homework Copy’ distribution programme. Dinesh Prasad Adhikari, headmaster at the school, said, “Most of the schools in the cities are conducting online classes. But in rural areas, there is no internet connection and most people don’t own mobile phones. So, 15 days ago, we distributed homework assignment copies to students in various settlements. Teachers have been mobilised for this task.”
There are around 250 students in the school.
Kishor Adhikari, a teacher at the school, said, “We have maintained social distancing and have adopted safety measures while distributing and collecting homework copies.”
The school had distributed new textbooks to the students a few months ago.
In mid-June, the KP Sharma Oli government had proposed online classes as a teaching-learning alternative for schools and colleges. But a majority of the students and schools in the country do not have the resources to make a switch to online classes.
Sunita Chamling in Itahari and Nagendra Adhikari in Kavre contributed reporting.