In Landimalla village, Sambalpur district, students have been climbing water tank to gain better access to internet connectivity and login into online classes. The 150 feet high water tank is their only resort to salvage decent internet facilities to take part in online lessons imparted by school teachers. Laxnidhar Roul and Ramachal Swain of class X and IX respectively are joined by other students who do not hesitate before climbing trees or other water tanks in the adjoining areas.
“The BSNL tower in our village is useless for joining the online class. If I climb the water tank, then I manage to get a faint network of Airtel 4G tower 12 km from our village. Sometime I also climb the Mahul tree to catch the airtel network from the tree,” said Roul, a school student in Orissa.
In Maliput Rajiv Gandhi High School, it is routine for students to scale hills and trees to catch internet signal and join WhatsApp like their peers. In Maoist-affected parts of the state, children regularly come out of their homes to continue with online classes since mobile network and connectivity is tremendously erratic on days.
“In Landimala village, the BSNL tower can support not mroe than 30 mobile phones at a time. To get 4G signal of Airtel, children climb the water tank as well as trees,” commented Mahesh Swain, a villager of Landimala.
According to a National Survey report, only 10 percent of households in Orissa has access to internet while the number dwindles to 5 percent in rural areas.
“Not more than 20 per cent of the students would have access to smartphone. Even if they had a smartphone, it would have been with the parents. Then there are mobile connectivity issues and frequent power cuts. The government should have waited for some time before rushing off to start online education,” commented Anil Pradhan, a Right to Education activist.
So far the students have gained no reply from chief minister regarding the difficulty in accessing 3G or 4G in the village.