Around 200 children had to travel 50 kilometers per day from remote coastal villages in Maharashtra to reach an internet-connected area where they could take online classes after being hit first by the COVID-19 lockdown and then hit by Cyclone Nisarga .
Stricken by a pandemic and natural disaster, children have had to grapple with internet disruptions since early June when connectivity became inconsistent along the coast of Ratnagiri district.
But when the situation did not improve even after a month, one of the students eventually turned to the Apex children’s rights organization NCPCR for help.
The National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, in turn, made sure that connectivity was restored in the fastest possible way by reaching out to cell phone companies and the district judge of the area, said Priyank Kanoongo, chairman of the NCPCR.
In his letter to the district judge for the area, Kanoongo stressed that the authorities must ensure that the problem is resolved at the earliest.
“The Commission has become aware of a complaint about poor and disrupted network connectivity along the coast of the Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra, particularly in the area of the PIN code 415714, which was fatally hit by cyclone Nisarg on June 3, 2020 and since then the residents of the Region have no cellular or data connection, ”Kanoongo said in the letter to the district judge on July 25th.
“As a result, around 200 students have difficulty with online educational activities due to corona lock. In addition, students have to travel approximately 50 km per day to access data connectivity for their online educational activities, ”he said.
He requested the Ratnagiri District Judge to intervene immediately on the matter.
“I am hereby drawing the kind attention of DM Ratnagiri to intervene immediately, establish a connection and give appropriate instructions to the mobile operator concerned so that the Internet connection is restored at the earliest so that no child becomes the victim of excessive pressure or stress Education, ”Kanoongo said in the letter.
In a second letter to the district judge on July 30, the NCPCR requested a report on action taken on the matter.
“Given the current situation of COVID 19, the children are having problems conducting their online educational activities in the absence / disruption of the internet connection, it cannot be ruled out that a child may become the victim of excessive pressure or stress in relation to their education,” said the letter. The cell phone companies were told that the child rights authority “expects immediate intervention in the matter to restore the Internet connection at the earliest”.
Speaking to PTI, Kanoongo said the NCPCR had continuously contacted the authorities and eventually restored internet connectivity in the area through one of the cellular networks, while the rest of them assured that they would solve the problem at the earliest.
“We intervened and wrote to the district judge and the cell phone companies and we dealt with it as a political intervention where NCPCR has a role to play in helping children. As a result, priority has been given to taking action and restoring the village’s internet connection, ”he said.
He also emphasized that it is very important in these times to offer children an accessible Internet.
“It is very important that if children depend on the internet for their education, it is important to ensure that they have accessible internet facilities,” he said.
The nationwide lockdown triggered by COVID-19 in March prompted schools and universities to move into the virtual world for teaching and learning activities. But poor internet penetration has made e-education a distant dream for many children in rural areas.
According to official statistics, there are over 35 crore students in the country.