Signalling the beginning of a new academic year, at least 45 lakh students in Kerala on Monday began attending virtual classes organised by the state education department in an bid to ensure that they do not miss out on lessons due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
The online sessions named ''First Bell'' are telecast through VICTERS Channel, under the State General Education Department, for classes 1 to 12 from 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM on weekdays.
The classes were initiated by a message from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who said the decision on online classes was taken due to the pandemic.
"I wish all the students a wonderful academic session. The teachers and the parents should ensure that the children attend the online class. We have brought out some restrictions in our daily life due to the pandemic. We need to ensure social distancing. It is not possible to start normal classes in schools as it may cause spread of the virus. However, we need to carry forward the studies of our children," Mr Vijayan said.
The Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE)has brought out the timetable for conducting the classes.
The sessions will be held from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm from Monday to Friday for all classes from 1 to 12, except class 11, on the channel.
"At least 45 lakh students and their parents are in front of the channel for the classes. This is not an alternative to the classroom but the education department has been providing the maximum support to the students," state education minister C Raveendranath said.
Minister for Higher Education K T Jaleel launched the online class for the college students and took history class.
The time slots for different classes vary from half-an-hour to two hours, a press release issued by KITE said.
Director of Public Instruction (DPI) K Jeevan Babu said the new method of teaching and studying is a challenge for the teachers and the students.
According to him, the department was worried about a section of students who lacked facilities for online classes and had identified over two lakh students in that category.
"We have entrusted the class teachers and school headmasters or principals to make sure that students have access to a television or a smart phone or a computer, and Internet for the classes.
If not, they should find an alternative for the students to attend the online classes either in real time or later," Babu said.
The department suggested alternatives including television or Internet facilities of neighbours, friends staying nearby, libraries or Akshaya centres.
The department also informed that all the classes will be in a downloadable format and can be compiled together and shown to those who have missed the class later.
The sessions on Victers channel will be available simultaneously on the KITE Victers website, mobile app, and social media pages.
The department said in the firstweek, the classes will be telecast on a trial basis and these will be repeated in the second week.
The modules for different classes will be prepared by agencies under the General Education Department such as the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), KITE, Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK), and the State Institute of Educational Technology.
KITE informed that for the first week at least 1.2 lakh laptops, over 7,000 projectors and nearly 4,545 televisions have been readied for the students.
Various NGOs and local self-government institutions have set up digital classrooms in Dalit colonies and adivasi hamlets in Kerala.
The LSGs have tried to bridge the digital divide by crowd-sourcing android TVs and wi-fi devices and certain panchayats have even provided smart phones to those students who lack one.