Panaji: Determination to continue their studies during the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a group of Goa students to trek 3km every day to reach a hilltop inside a wildlife sanctuary in search of better internet connectivity for their online classes.
For these students, numbering 25, including girls, trek to the hilltop in Sanguem taluka of South Goa district ignoring the dangers associated with the journey has been a daily ritual for the last few months.
Educational institutes in the coastal state, like other parts of the country, are closed since March-end due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown and learning has shifted online, which requires smartphones and robust internet connectivity.
Students from villages like Kumari and Patre in Sanguem taluka, situated almost 100km south of Panaji, have been regularly trekking 3km to reach the Kumari hilltop inside the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary to get strong signal for their mobile phones and access online classes.
We come here by 8.10 a.m and return home by 1 p.m after our classes get over, said Neelima Ekdo, studying in an engineering college at Verna village, about 40km from Panaji.
The students sit on rocks on the barren plateau on the hill inside the wildlife sanctuary with no shelter overhead.
"When it rains, we have to sit with umbrellas to save ourselves from getting drenched. When it rains, there is no range and we have to wait for showers to stop to resume our classes, Ekdo added.
The area has mobile towers of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), but according to locals, internet connectivity is often poor.
Pravita Gaonkar, who studies at the Government College in Quepem, said they often come across snakes on the plateau. We have seen several snakes crawling on the plateau. But we have no other option but to come here as we can't miss our online classes, she said.
When contacted, a senior official from the district administration said efforts are on to ensure that all BSNL towers in the area are functional.
He said the issue of poor internet connectivity and hardship faced by students has been discussed at review meetings held in the district collectorate.