Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bitter Tablet: Laptops distributed by Rajasthan govt of little use to students in rural areas

Bitter Tablet: Laptops distributed by Rajasthan govt of little use to students in rural areas

LaptopLeela was given an Acer laptop for topping her class but she can hardly understand the English stories recited on her new gadget. (IE Photo: Anil Sharma)

Gehlot govt may have distributed laptops, cheques for tablets under the Rajiv Gandhi Vidhyarthi Digital Yojana, but they are of little use to students in rural areas. Many feel hiring more teachers instead would have helped. The new Mathematics teacher at Matasula Secondary School, located in an interior tribal village in Udaipur, is having nightmares. He has to teach simple addition, subtraction and multiplication to even Class IX and X students. Among the "brightest" students in these classes are Hitesh Kumar Ranji and Leela Kumari.
Hitesh, a Class X student, has learnt division and Leela, a Class IX student, is learning "tenses".
Hitesh and Leela have been rewarded with an Acer laptop each for topping in Class VIII in 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively. The others in the top 10 in Class VIII have got cheques of Rs 6,000 each to buy PC tablets. Their parents have submitted "receipts" from a stationary shop from where they purportedly bought them. The students, however, don't seem to have any clue about the PC tablets.
Ahead of the Assembly polls, this is the Congress regime's much-publicised contribution to GenNext in, what Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot says, making them "technically more proficient" under the Rajiv Gandhi Vidhyarthi Digital Yojana (RGVDY).
About 3.5 lakh students across the state have got these cheques ostensibly to buy tablets. Toppers in Classes VIII, X and XII were given laptops by the debt-ridden Rajasthan government, taking the total expenditure under the RGVDY to an estimated Rs 422 crore.
The laptop opens with the picture of the late prime minister on the screen. Hitesh and Leela know it is Rajiv Gandhi but don't know who he was. While Hitesh is more eager to know whether "the government can give him a job after studies", Leela's problem is more immediate. "I am trying to understand past continuous tense," she says. But that still won't be enough for her to understand the "English stories" that are recited on her new gadget.
Expecting more will be unfair on their school in Ombariapala village, which has only one teacher for 74 students from Classes I to V. The students all sit together to learn alphabets or recite poems. There are four teachers for 311 students from Classes VI to X — for English, Sanskrit, Science and Mathematics — but not one for Social Sciences.
In fact, there was only one teacher for all these students from 2008 to 2011. Until a few months back, Sanskrit and English teachers, who also have to take care of mid-day meals, taught all subjects. On Saturday, the Science teacher had to be sent to the nearby Manpur Secondary School to teach 74 students from Classes VI to X. He was needed as the lone teacher there had to take leave due to her child's sickness.
No wonder, laptops are a subject of awe and envy in the school and they are better kept at home, neatly wrapped. "Most of these tribal students' parents are illiterate. These laptops and PCs are useless to them. I wish the government had invested in recruiting teachers and building infrastructure. We have six rooms for 10 classes," says a teacher.
At the Government Secondary School at Rasoolpur village in Ajmer district, Class IX student Puja Gurjar got the laptop last August. "I know how to switch it on. I will see what I can do with it," she says. Her classmate Dharmendra Raghuvanshi, who came from another school where he got the laptop, does not see much use of it but says he is learning how to type. Asked what he is learning to type, he says, "Names — my name, friends' names."
Principal of the school Laxmikant Sharma says half of the students who received the cheques for tablets have submitted the receipts, while he was putting pressure on others who haven't. He is more concerned about the no-failure provision till Class VIII. "After the RTE, no student till Class VIII can fail. It has not only brought education standards down, but is also promoting indiscipline." He has issued a one-page instruction to restrain his teachers. It says, "Koi bhi karan ho, kaisi bhi baat ho, gussa mat karo, chidho mat."
Siraj Mohammad, a teacher at the madrasa in Rasoolpur, has the same complaint about the no-failure provision, although he expects better results from the laptops and tablets scheme. His madarsa has two computer teachers and a lab with internet facility.
Like Raghuvanshi of Rasoolpur school, Ajay Singh Bhati, a Class XI student at Dudu Higher Secondary School, located about 40 km from Jaipur, is also learning how to type on the laptop he got for topping in the previous class. On the laptop's contents, he says he has read a "lesson on magnetism", listened to "English stories" and saw the course books of Classes VIII to XII. He did not understand the stories as he does not know English. Course books are given free of cost by the government and so, those in the laptop are redundant.
"We know these laptops and PC tablets are useless to these students. This (tablet) is cash incentive to the parents before elections. But, may be, they (students) get motivated to achieve something in life," says the principal of a school. According to the government's plan, these students had to be imparted brief training on the use of these gadgets. This, obviously, has not been done so far.

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