Unable To Attend School, Students In Mumbai's Aarey Get Phones To Study

Sonu Sood delivered smartphones to as many as 27 children and also spoke to them via a video call, urging them to study hard and make their parents proud

Around 50 children from tribal communities in Mumbai's Aarey received smartphones

Mumbai:

Across Mumbai lakhs of children have seen their education disrupted by the pandemic because they do not have access to smartphones and tablets and high-speed internet connections - essential in order to access and attend the online classes that have become the new normal in the time of Covid.

In a city that is home to some of the richest people in the world, while barriers posed by technology are non-existent for some students, others - like those from tribal communities in the Aarey region - are unable to attend classes.

Last month NDTV highlighted the difficulties these young boys and girls were facing, and the response was heart-warming. Several viewers, and actor Sonu Sood - who has been active in helping those affected by the pandemic - reached out and now students from eight Aarey villages have smartphones.

"We were going to the houses of others and asking for a phone for studies. They were not giving it... our children were unable to read and they used to roam around here and there," Pramila Maankar, a local resident, said.

Sonu Sood delivered smartphones to as many as 27 children and also spoke to them via a video call, urging them to study hard and make their parents proud. Overall, around 50 students now have smartphones to help them get back to school.

"Earlier we used to go to a friend's house and ask them for a phone. Then they used to play games, sometimes there would be some urgent work and then they would say that let my child do his work first then," Rohit Sadhve, a happy student with a new smartphone, said.

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For many of the families in these villages, and certainly the children, this is the first time they have a smartphone, and this presented another barrier.

Happily, people associated with the "Save Aarey" movement (a group of citizens working to save the vast Aarey forests from destruction) are now teaching these children how to use their new phones, including the Zoom app.

"Now that Zoom classes are normal and studies are happening online, these children might have trouble in accessing the app and understanding how it works. So we teach them how to use it," Mudra Ekandavar, a "Save Aarey" volunteer, told NDTV

In the days to come more smartphones are expected to reach these villages.

Some of the students in the Aarey forest area may have gotten their devices, but there are still many more across Mumbai, Maharashtra and the country who remain unable to read, write or learn because they cannot afford what many take for granted - a smartphone and the internet.