Loss of privacy, domestic distractions and health issues plague girls learning online

Loss of privacy, domestic distractions and health issues plague girls learning online

Loss of privacy, domestic distractions and health issues plague girls learning online

Representational image (Picture credit - ILO-Asia Pacific/Flickr)

101Reporters spoke to a cross-section of girls enrolled in various schools in the Champaran region of Bihar, each with their unique share of woes that were taking a toll on their studies. 

Bettiah: Her classmates at the Bettiah-based Delhi Public School were all live on the Zoom call when class 10 student Niku Kumari's (15) voice began to shiver with anger as her face glistened with rage. Then came some choice curses that left her classmates shocked and amused. "My little brother Satyam was up to pranks and, unable to concentrate on my study, I reacted sharply. The whole class burst into laughter after I called my brother a [withheld] but ultimately I think I was the butt of the joke," Kumari said in a sheepishly low tone. 


Always clad in smart clothes and stylish accessories, Taniya Praveen, a class 10 student of AG Mission, was 'outed' as a fluent Bhojpuri-speaker during an online coaching class, something that came as a shock to her fellow students who always considered her a sort of an enigma. "This despite all of us being part of the same coaching class for the past two years," said Raj Kumar, her tuition-mate.


"The online classes have certainly intruded into our private lives," said Richa Kumari, a student of RL International, a Bettiah-based co-ed school. A teacher attached with a private school too conceded this point. "Drifting voices from the background is a very common thing during online classes. Occasionally, we have come across angry words being shared," said a teacher, refusing to be identified. 


Many girls also complained of an increased burden of household chores, running errands and fulfilling filial duties as side effects of studying from home. 


"Being at home, our contribution in household chores has increased manifold, knowingly or unknowingly. Running errands for family members in the middle of an online class isn't uncommon," said Salu Kumari, a student of class 7.


"If some guest drops during class time, we are required to entertain the guest. Online study isn't taken seriously by many parents either," said another student.


Apart from the online classes being conducted by private schools, the Bihar government also launched initiatives like 'Mera Doordarshan, Mera Vidhalaya' and 'Unnayan Bihar Smart Class' to provide a platform for lessons during the Covid-induced closure of academic institutions. However, with the lack of amenities like smartphones and accessibility to the internet in remote areas of the district, students and their parents continue to question the quality of education they are receiving. "It's very irritating to manage our study. Though a smartphone has been arranged by my parents, the internet is perennially slow in our area during evenings," said Sakchi Rai, a Class 9 student in Chanpatiya block of West Champaran. 

For many like Anshika Sinha, a student of Modern Public School at Motihari in East Champaran, online classes can only over be a stopgap arrangement. "Online and physical classes are as different as chalk and cheese," she said.


When contacted, Binod Kumar Vimal, district education officer (DEO), West Champaran feigned ignorance about any challenges faced by children, especially girls, during online studies. However, Awdesh Kumar Singh, district education officer (DEO), East Champaran felt the girls were more attentive during the online classes. "We do not have any data to support this. But yes, we have feedback that girls are the best beneficiaries of our online class due to their regular attendance and patience to stay glued to the screen," he said.


Prof. Ambika Kumari, head of the Psychology Department at MJK College, said that online classes are impacting the students irrespective of their gender. "The whole concept behind online classes is to impart education. The attention among the students for the classes varies from class to class. The attention deficiency is more pronounced in low grades and hence their parents have to sit with them. One big advantage of physical classes is that they served as stress busters but that has gone missing as classes went online and as a result children tend to be more irritable," she said.


Worse, with the increase in screen time, cases of specific ailments among children are rising. "Cases of somatic form disorder (SFD) and attention deficiency have become common these days. Such cases now pour in on a daily basis, a sharp surge from earlier when we'd see only a couple of cases in a month," said Dr Kumar Saurabh, a Bettiah-based noted child specialist, attached with government medical college and hospital (GMCH).

"SFD is a form of mental illness that causes one or more bodily symptoms, including pain in the chest or abdomen or head. The increase in screen time among children for leisure and now, academic work has created a huge lifestyle change which has been a cause of these diseases," he added.

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