Parents in catch-22 situation on school fees, e-learning in Meghalaya

Correspondent SHILLONG, APRIL 22 | Publish Date: 4/22/2020 9:55:58 AM IST

For Mathew Nongrum, a cab driver in Shillong, who has been forced to give his source of income and sit idle at home amid the COVID-19 lockdown, is hoping that the Meghalaya government will provide some respite by waiving school fees.

 “People like me who live hand-to-mouth are in very bad shape at the moment. There are many unforeseen expenditures and paying school fees of my children,” he said.

Though, the Meghalaya government has announced a monetary grant of Rs 1000 per week to beneficiary workers registered with the Meghalaya Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, Nongrum did not apply for it.

“I did not avail the government grant since I thought it was meant only for construction workers. I don’t have a bank account. I opened a bank account only on April 13 and if the government announces another fresh monetary grant, I will surely apply for it,” he said.

Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui said that the government is examining whether to waive off school fees during the lockdown to combat COVID-19.

 “We are still examining all the pros and cons to waive off school fees. We will take a final decision on the matter once we analysed it,” Rymbui said.

Not only Nongrum, but S Saibon, a native of Nohron village, about 70 kms from Shillong, said, “Everybody is facing hardship at this point of time. We are surviving from garden to kitchen but for how long we can survive like this. I am more worried now on how to pay school fees of my children studying in a private school in Shillong.”

 “If we don’t pay the school fees, the question that arises is how the teachers will meet their daily requirements. We only hope that the government will look into these matters so that no one should be financially affected by it,” he said.

On the other hand, students in rural areas cannot access the slew of education apps due to lack of mobile internet connectivity and smart phones.

 “We have heard of the government’s initiative on e-learning to ensure that students keep abreast with education. However, mobile internet connectivity is still a major issue for us in the rural areas, and my children along with so many school children are not to going benefit from e-learning,” M Kharphuli, a mother of four children, said.

Echoing  Kharpuli, a government school teacher under Mawsynram assembly constituency, said, “As a concerned teacher, I am deeply saddened for my students who are unable to use online courses through smartphones as all the student’s parent do not have smartphones and are mostly uneducated.”

 “In rural areas,  most village have no network service. It is unfortunate for us as teachers to see our students are unable to complete the half yearly syllabus due to the pandemic,” the teacher, who wished not to be quoted. However, the school teacher said his request to his students is to stay at home and maintain hygiene until the government gives us an alternative methods to continue teaching students in the school.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had admitted on the limitations of online class in terms of connectivity in the rural areas.

He said the government is examining if there are other options and the education department is working out modalities.

 “Online class is one option because technology is available and we want to use it to facilitate to whatever extent. We could know that there are limitations in terms of connectivity in the rural areas and the infrastructure is not sufficient to go ahead with it,” Sangma said, adding that the government is aware of the limitations.  

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