Ensure affordable internet for students, teachers
It is concerning that many students and teachers across the country are finding it hard to bear the cost of online classes because of the high internet charges. Around four crore students in the country, from primary to university level, have been affected due to the pandemic since all educational institutions were closed on March 17 to contain the spread of Covid-19. Although many institutions have introduced online classes to make up for the loss of learning, a vast majority of students cannot afford the high internet charges.
The high cost of a broadband connection and the necessary equipment, such as a router, needed for online classes, have added to the burden of parents who are struggling to meet the regular household expenditure. The same is true for teachers as paying the internet bill every month with their meagre salary has become very difficult for many of them. The cost of mobile operators' data plans are even higher than the cost of broadband connections. And for many students living in the remote rural areas, online education remains completely inaccessible because of poverty, poor internet connectivity and a lack of necessary equipment.
Although the issue of the digital divide created during this pandemic has been discussed in the media and various other forums, we are yet to see any comprehensive plan from the government to address the problem and ensure that online education is accessible to all students at every corner of the country. Questions have also been raised about the lack of preparations of our public universities in holding online classes and reaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Public and private universities have been calling for affordable mobile internet packages for their students for a long time. And the UGC has also urged the government to introduce free internet packages for university students to enable them to access online education. We hope to see a positive development in this regard soon. It is good to know that Shahjalal University of Science and Technology have already signed an agreement with a telecom operator to provide affordable internet packages for its students. We hope other universities will also take such steps.