Virajpet: The online platform may be the only way to reach students during lockdown, but the digital medium comes with its own challenges. Students living in remote areas in Kodagu are facing trouble due to slow internet and connectivity issues. Lessons cannot be downloaded and they cannot attend online classes as videos and audios do not play.
Kodagu is one of the high-altitude districts in Karnataka and most of the areas have green cover and undulating terrain. However, this very feature poses a great challenge to the students in attending online classes due to poor internet connectivity.
Students are commonly seen sitting on the roadside on top of bridges and on the rocks where they attend online classes. Some of them climb trees risking their lives and limbs. While the internet may not be available inside some houses, faint signals are somewhat available at a distance. So parents have the task of taking the children to the area where connectivity is available and bringing them back home after classes.
Rain trouble too
Now it is raining across the district and students can’t even sit in the open outside. They sit inside jeeps and other vehicles to protect themselves from rain. There is hardly any mobile network in remote villages in Virajpet Taluk like Kedamullur, Birunani, Badagarakeri, Hysodlur, Nittoor, Karmad, Kunda and also Hathur.
To attend the online classes, these students have no option but to find a spot where they get proper connectivity. And there are very few places where they get an internet connection on the phone. Added to the connectivity issues, many areas are in the dark due to frequent tree falls. Villages like Kedamullur, Badaga, Thermemotte, Baarikaadu, Kottooli, Thomara and Koorthikaadu do not get power restored for weeks together in case wires snap.
“Due to the lack of a mobile network in my village, I have to walk into the forests where I can get faint signals. Our village is one of the places where basic communication facilities are missing and villagers have to walk towards the forests at the time where they get signal on their phones. Sometimes it rains when we are outside and we are not able to study,” said M.C. Nireeksha, a 10th Standard student at Heggala Ramanagara School.
Students are the ones who are suffering the most as they have to travel 3-4 km at times during the lockdown to attend online classes, she added. At remote villages where there is undulating terrain, mobile network is not balanced across the village and they get signal only in the upper reaches. A majority of students in the Kedamullur region have been studying in the schools and colleges in Virajpeṭ and 70 percent are the children of labourers.
“My house is in the lower part of Kedamullur village while good signal can be reached only in the upper reaches of the village, so my children are forced to trek till a particular point to study. This is a wooded area and there is a threat of wild animals. Along with my daughter I too walk 4 km to get connectivity and we only return in the evening,” said Vishwanath, a parent.
While this is the predicament faced by the students, those in positions of power sit tight saying that they have written many letters to higher-ups and there is no response. “BSNL provides connectivity to many areas in Kodagu and the offices of engineers, technicians and other staff are empty as there are hardly any employees. I have even written many letters to higher-ups for a mobile tower but there is no response,” said Kedamullur Gram Panchayat President N. Sheela.
“There is a 2G BSNL tower in Virajpet-Kedamullur and it is a genuine problem. Letters have been written a month back to upgrade the tower to 4G network. The problem will be solved if a new tower is installed,” said BSNL Virajpet Sub-Division Engineer Narayana. The officer was, however, silent on when the new tower will be installed or the existing tower would be upgraded to 4G.