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Computers worth Rs 3 cr lie idle, defunct, in govt-run primary schools; children deprived of digital education

 At a time when central government is pushing hard to create a digitally empowered society through its flagship programme ‘Digital India’, all of the computers labs put in place in government-run primary schools in Paradip seaport township and adjoining areas have turned defunct.

Over 600 computer sets provided to as many as 90 primary schools across Paradip areas have gone idle long since with Rs 3 crore spent to make the children computer-literate virtually going down the drain.

The computer labs are not in functional state in any of the schools. It has become inoperative. The department is trying to reactivate the defunct computer sets and we have sought for funds from competent authorities in this regard, said an official.

Of the 1751 schools in the district, ninety schools were picked up for computer education seven years back as part of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) based initiative. Seven years on, the experiment to make the primary students computer-literate has apparently failed miserably.

“I an avid listener of PM Modi’s Maan ki baat programme. He always highlights empowerment of society through digitalization. After demonetization, he has given the call for plastic money and cashless transaction. But the ground reality is something else here. My ward studying in sixth class is well versed in smart phone operation. He is coaxing me to bring home a computer. But I am not in a position to afford it. His school has computer lab. But defunct sets are not coming to use. My ward is disheartened. Students of his age reading in private English medium schools have turned computer-literate because of facilities available there. My ward is lagging behind”, said a parent Gobind Charan Sahoo.              

Dysfunctional computers adorn the classrooms. Power backup, photocopy machine, printers and projectors are all in place. But the computer sets are not in running state. The central processing units have turned defunct. With funds to reactivate the sets not forthcoming, the CPUs have taken the shape of decorative pieces, reminding one of the fact that all is not well in ICT-based initiatives in school education.

Seven sets of desktop computers had been provided to our school six years back. But all of these went out of order a year after the installation. We have requested the higher authorities for its repair. Children mostly from 5th to 7th standard are evincing interest in computer learning. But we are unable to teach them the basics of computer education, said Headmaster of Kakata Mangala upper primary school, Sarat Kumar Rout.

“My parents have not provided me with a computer. I was very much keen to learn the basics from school computer lab. But computers are not working since two years back when I was enrolled in the school”, said a 7th standard student, Prasant Nayak.       

The ICT-based initiative was doomed to fail. Though the schools had been electrified, there was no provision of electricity bill payment. The school authorities struggled hard to pay bills from meagre Rs 5,000 annual school improvement grants. Non-payment of bills had also led to disruption of power supply. Besides, teachers were not properly trained to impart computer education to the students. A weeklong training programme to a select group of teachers was not enough to make the teachers computer-literate, commented a retired headmaster of a government-run school, Abani Mohan Maohanty.         

The private school students are picking up digital literacy at a tender age because these institutions are well equipped with computer sets and trained computer teachers. However digital literacy is a far cry for the students of government schools due to gross lack of facilities. So it is widening the divide among private and government school students as far computer literacy in concerned, felt an educationist, Basudeb Das.

Take the case of Mahipal upper primary school. The computer lab remains locked up as the sets are in running condition. Fate is the same in rest of the 89 schools which had come under ICT initiative.  

In some of the schools located in the rural areas, the lab was not operated since the day of its installation due to power fluctuation. The systems were not supported by power backup and stabilizers. As a result, the sets turned defunct one after the other due to non-maintenance, said a cross-section of teachers.

“The computer sets need to be repaired as students are evincing interest in computer education. All the sets provided to us are not in working condition. We have informed the higher-ups in this regard”, said the headmistress of Budhibilasuni upper primary school, Mrs. Nayana Mallik

Authorities admitted the sorry state of affairs in ICT programme in primary level schools.

District Education Officer, Sangam Sahu said “There are deficiencies like defunct sets, erratic power supply and non-appointment of instructors. The discrepancies are being set right”.

 “We have computer lab, but that exists on paper only. We are unable to understand the basics due to lack of practice”, quipped 7th standard student of Mahipal UP school, Miss Bishnupriya Sahoo.

 

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