Teachers of a government-sponsored school in Howrah raised Rs 1.5 lakh for the online education of the students who were unable to attend classes because of unavailability of phones or inability to recharge with datapacks.
About 60 per cent of the students of the school come from low-income groups and a significant number of them are first-generation school goers whose fathers are hawkers and mothers work as domestic helps.
Teachers at the Howrah Jogesh Chandra Girls’ School have so far given phones to 21 girls and helped 35 with data recharge in Classes V to IX.
The school handed over the phones to the guardians during an event organised on the school premises recently.
The pandemic has hit the livelihood of some of the parents. The school told the students that they would receive the phones recharged till the time their parents were unable to do it, said Subhra Chakraborty, the headmistress of the school.
“We conducted a survey to understand the situation. Each class teacher from Classes V to X found out how many girls were unable to attend the online classes and the reason for not being able to do so,” said headmistress Chakraborty.
Chakraborty said the school located in the Howrah Maidan area had started online classes from around March last year. However, drop outs increased after the classes commenced over digital platforms.
A section of the girls went back to native places. The long absence of physical classes aided this migration, a school official said.
“This is something that I have wanted to do since last year. This year I discussed with the teachers if we could come forward to help the students and they agreed to,” said Chakraborty.
In the survey, the teachers found that 55 students did not have devices or had phones which could not be used for online lessons. “It was difficult to provide devices to so many students at one go. So we prepared a list of meritorious students but cannot afford to buy a device. The teachers recommended the name and we have provided them initially,” she said.
Every month the school has estimated about Rs 7,000 in datapack recharge and the school is hopeful of raising more funds.
Chakraborty said in each class about 20 to 25 per cent students are “first generation learners”.
“Even 10 years back there were more students from the middle-income group but that has gone down. When income improves there is a tendency amongst parents to get their wards admitted to English medium schools. We have started English medium section in 2017.”
Chakraborty said while the teachers have raised this amount this year there have been instances in the last 15 months when teachers have come forward to get the girls’ phones recharged or even help them with books even before the pandemic.