New Delhi: Around 200 children were forced to travel 50 kilometres every day to reach an area with internet connection to attend online classes from their remote coastal villages in Maharashtra after they were hit first by COVID-19 lockdown and then by cyclone Nisarga.
Hit by a pandemic and then a natural disaster, the children from remote villages in Maharashtra had to deal with internet disruptions since early June when connectivity along the coastal area of Ratnagiri district became scratchy.
But when even after a month the situation did not improve, one of the students finally reached out to the apex child rights body, National Commission for Protection Child Rights or NCPCR, for help.
The NCPCR, in turn, ensured that connectivity was restored in the fastest possible manner by reaching out to cellular companies and the district magistrate of the area, NCPCR Chairman Priyank Kanoongo said.
In his letter to the district magistrate of the area, Kanoongo stressed that the authorities must ensure that the issue gets resolved at the earliest.
"The commission has taken cognizance of a complaint received regarding poor and disrupted network connectivity along coastal area of Ratnagiri District, Maharashtra, particularly in the area of PIN Code 415714, which was deadly hit by cyclone Nisarg on June 3, 2020 and since then, the residents of area do not have mobile and data connectivity," Kanoongo said in the letter to the district magistrate on July 25.
"As a result, around 200 students are facing difficulties in online educational activities due to corona lockdown. Besides, the students are taking pain to travel about 50 km a day to access data connectivity for their online education activities," he said.
He sought the immediate intervention from the Ratnagiri district magistrate on the matter.
"I hereby draw the kind attention of DM, Ratnagiri to immediately intervene in the matter, make liaison and issue suitable directions to the concerned cellular service provider to get the Internet connectivity restored at the earliest so that no child becomes victim of undue pressure or stress concerning their education," Kanoongo said in the letter.
Speaking to PTI, Kanoongo said the NCPCR continuously followed up with the authorities and finally the internet connection in the area was restored by one of the cellular networks while the rest of them assured that they will resolve the issue at the earliest.
"We intervened and wrote to the district magistrate and cellular companies and we dealt with it as a policy intervention in which NCPCR has to play a role in helping children. As a result, action was taken on a priority basis and internet connectivity of the village was restored," he said.
He further stressed that it is very important to ensure barrier-free internet facility for the children in these times.
"It is very important that if children are dependent upon the internet for their education then it needs to be ensured that they get barrier-free Internet facility," he said.
The nationwide lockdown induced by COVID-19 in March prompted schools and colleges to move to the virtual world for teaching and learning activities. But a weak internet penetration has turned e-education into a distant dream for many children in the rural areas.
According to official statistics, there are over 35 crore students in the country.