In a quiet move, the Tamil Nadu Education Department has directed Class X students of government schools to arrange for their own laptops to receive video lessons.
The directive came a day after Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced that students in Class XII will be provided laptops for free to enable them receive video lessons.
A schoolteacher from Madurai told The Federal that her school was instructed to inform Class X students to bring their own laptops or arrange from somewhere to get video lessons.
“Only 30% students managed to bring their own laptops. This either they borrowed from their relatives or obtained from their elder siblings who might have recently completed their schooling. Many children are left in the lurch and we too are helpless,” she said.
When The Federal checked with a number of schools across the state, they confirmed the fact that a day after the announcement of the chief minister, Class X students were asked to get their own laptops.
On July 14, the CM launched video lessons for Class X and XII through ‘Kalvi Tholaikatchi,’ the state-owned education channel. The channel was launched in late 2019 to help government school students prepare for competitive examinations.
Once the decision for Class XII was made, the schools were distributed books and free laptops with downloaded videos by the government. Subsequently, within a few days, the teachers were directed to do the same for Class X students as well, but were issued no laptops. Teachers do not know when the classes would actually start.
Ranjith, a Class X student in Samayanallur, in Madurai, says he is still on the lookout for a laptop. He is seeking help of neighbours and relatives in the village.
“The class teacher asked me to get a laptop. My parents are farmworkers and they can’t afford to buy a new one. I am asking my school seniors and relatives to lend me their machines for a few days till I buy a secondhand laptop. I am also looking out for Amma laptops, but unable to get any,” he says. In the past, Amma laptops were distributed free of cost by the government, which he thinks may be available in the market for a low price. Besides, he has to learn to use a laptop. “I have seen computers in our school, but never used it,” he added.
Another Class X student in Coimbatore, who got the video lessons in his sister’s laptop, said that he could not understand concepts.
“I read the lessons from the textbook and watched related videos a number of times, but couldn’t understand much, therefore stopped the exercise. If teachers call me and insist that I should watch the videos again, I may do so,” says R Vikas, a student studying in a Coimbatore school.
Schoolteachers are also in a fix as they do not know how to guide the students. “We were just asked to download the video lessons and give it to the children. We have no idea what will they do with the lessons. We have asked them to watch the same lessons on Kalvi Tholaikatchi as well,” a teacher from Coimbatore added.
When asked whether the students would be taught the same lessons again whenever the physical classes resume, most teachers claimed ignorance.
“We have no clue. Students who can afford to have laptops can surely learn Class X lessons, we don’t know about others,” a teacher said. But said, “it would be difficult for the students to coordinate between laptop videos and the lessons that are taught on the education channel.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of School Education, C.G. Thomas Vaidyan, has submitted a report to the CM about arrangements that could be made at the time of reopening the schools.
While the neighbouring states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh have tentatively decided that schools may be reopened after September, the Tamil Nadu government is still undecided.
The Federal approached the School Education Commissioner for a response on the government’s decision asking Class X students to get their own laptops. He did not oblige.