‘Look, your teacher is on TV’: India to hold special classes during lockdown

‘Look, your teacher is on TV’: India to hold special classes during lockdown
Not all students in India can afford computers for online classes, but new TV channels and radio stations are being planned to provide poor and marginalized students with round-the-clock access to their curriculum. (Shutterstock photo)
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Updated 10 May 2020

‘Look, your teacher is on TV’: India to hold special classes during lockdown

‘Look, your teacher is on TV’: India to hold special classes during lockdown
  • india prepares to launch 24/7 channels to provide poor students with access to education

NEW DELHI:  India is set to launch 12 TV channels and dedicated radio stations to provide poor and marginalized students with round-the-clock access to their curriculum, officials said on Saturday.

The initiative is to overcome disruption to the educational system caused by the country’s anti-coronavirus lockdown. All schools and educational institutions were closed one week before the nationwide shutdown on March 24.

“We are preparing the content,” Dr. Hrushikesh Senapaty, director of the National Council Of Educational Research And Training (NCERT), told Arab News. “It’s for the poor and marginalized communities who are the real victims of this lockdown and their education is suffering. To address that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the new TV stations soon.” 

Private schools have been conducting online classes, but students from government schools have been deprived of education.

“We are trying to reach out to students through mobiles also,” Senapty added. “The problem is that many people don’t have mobiles so we feel TV would reach out to more people."

Senapty said that 12 channels would cover the curriculum for all grades, from one to 12, and that the initiative was “just a stop-gap arrangement” until the situation became normal.

“We are also organizing radio stations to reach out to those groups who cannot afford TV and minimize the digital divide,” he said.

The third phase of the lockdown is expected to end on May 17, but schools will remain shut until June. With coronavirus cases escalating at an alarming rate, experts predict that the reopening of schools could be delayed until November.

Out of India's more than 260 million school students, 60 percent study in government schools where education is mostly free but the quality of teaching is not up to standard.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Rural development in 2017-18 said that 16 percent of India’s households received one to eight hours of electricity daily, while 33 percent had it for nine to 12 hours. Just 47 percent had electricity for more than 12 hours a day.

While limited access to education is a reality for most people below the poverty line, it is not their most immediate problem.

“For millions like me facing the coronavirus crisis today, education is not a priority,” Jugeshwar Prasad, a daily-wage worker whose two sons study at a government school in east Delhi, told Arab News. “We don’t have enough resources to feed my family. I cannot afford the internet or TV or smartphones to educate my children.” 

Experts added that, unless the government provided support measures, disparities in the virtual world would continue to fuel educational inequalities.

“The digital divide is evident across class, gender, region or place of residence,” Potiva Kundu of the New Delhi-based think-tank the Center for Budget and Governance Equality told Arab News. “Among the poorest 20 percent of households, only 2.7 percent have access to a computer and 8.9 percent to internet facilities. In the case of the top 20 percent households, the proportions are 27.6 percent and 50.5 percent.” 

The coronavirus pandemic had exposed how rooted structural imbalances were between rural and urban, male and female, rich and poor, even in the digital world, she added.

“With the existing digital divide, expanding online education will push the digital have-nots to the periphery of the education system, thereby increasing inequality in educational outcomes,” she said.

Jayprakash Yadav, an economics teacher at a government school in the Patna district of eastern Bihar state, said that most students at the school were from marginalized communities and could not afford TV or online education.

“Unless the government provides them TV or laptops and most importantly internet connection they cannot benefit from online education,” he told Arab News.

The NCERT was launched in 1961 and is the government agency for school education, and promotes the quality of learning across institutions in the country.


Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
Updated 19 January 2021

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
  • Taliban spokesman says first vice president wants to sabotage the peace talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday demanded the execution of Taliban prisoners as violence surges in the country in spite of US-sponsored talks between the government and the militants.

Under mounting US pressure and following months of delay, Kabul released last summer thousands of Taliban prisoners from its custody as part of the landmark accord between the group and Washington.

But now there has been a spike in arrests of suspected Taliban fighters linked with recent attacks.

“These arrests should be executed so that it becomes a lesson for others,” Saleh told a routine security meeting in Kabul.

“The arrested like nightingales admit (to conducting attacks), but their all hope is that they will be freed one day without real punishment … any terrorist detainee should be executed.”

Known as the staunchest anti-Taliban leader in government and consistently opposed to talks with the Taliban, Saleh said he would raise his demand for the executions in the High Council of the Judiciary. His spokesman, Rezwan Murad, said the first vice president has also shared his demand with President Ashraf Ghani.

“Currently, around 1,000 Taliban prisoners have been sentenced to capital punishment,” Prison Administration spokesman in Kabul, Farhad Bayani, told Arab News.

“Such news is provoking, he wants to sabotage the process of talks,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, when reached by Arab News for reaction to Saleh’s push.

“We will severely take the revenge of any type of inhuman and cruel treatment of our prisoners.”

The Afghan government was excluded from the US and Taliban deal signed last February in Doha, which as per the agreement is also hosting the current peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In spite of the ongoing talks, violence has surged in Afghanistan and both the government and the Taliban accuse each other for its escalation.

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the violence, which has displaced tens of thousands of people since the February deal, while Kabul has endured a resurgence in assassination attacks and magnet bombs.

Prior to Saleh, some residents and lawmakers also demanded the executions of Taliban members suspected of being behind major attacks. Heather Barr, interim co-director for Human Rights Watch, told Arab News: “Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a uniquely cruel and irreversible punishment and we are glad to see that there has been some global progress towards abolition of the death penalty.”

She added: “Afghanistan has already seen so much violence and death and continues to experience this violence every day. There is an urgent need for accountability for the many human rights violations that have been inflicted during Afghanistan’s many years of war, but executions will not bring the justice Afghans so badly need.”