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Poor connectivity hinders online learning in Nagaland

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Kohima, August 2: While the indefinite shutdown imposed on Jio Telecom services by the Ao Students’ Conference (AKM) on July 29 was only confined to Mokokchung District, the need for efficient and consistent internet connectivity throughout Nagaland has never been felt greatly than now with the COVID-19 pandemic restricting most activities in the State to online.
Pulling the switch on Jio Teleco Services at Mokokchung on Wednesday also rendered Jio telecom services at Tuensang non-existent on the same day, Confederation of Chang Students’ Union (CCSU) president Chingmak told Nagaland Page.
However, students from our region, especially the ones from rural areas, have been facing hardships in regard to availing online classes from the start, he revealed.
Chingmak mentioned that with the coming of COVID-19 pandemic, online classes seem to be the only viable way to engage the students and “I am totally in support of it but the ground reality is that even students based at Tuensang Town cannot even download the study materials provided by Directorate of School Education on Youtube and Facebook and the online study materials provided by teachers and their respective schools cannot be accessed as well.”
“Things are looking up as representatives from both Jio and Airtel have assured that they are working to provide quality network to the region at the earliest,” he said, adding the students’ union is keeping tabs on the work being done toward this pursuit and “so far we are satisfied with the level of efforts to better the situation.”
With the internet connectivity not feasible for online classes at the moment, especially in rural areas, the CCSU have instructed teachers to go to their respective postings and provide hand-written and photocopied notes even if regular classes cannot be conducted at the moment, said CCSU president. He added that such measures had to be taken despite the underlying danger of travelling with the pandemic still at large.
“We also have assigned each federating students’ body in respective areas to enforce one hour time table in the morning and 2 hours in the evening in rural areas,” the CCSU president said.
Back in Mokokchung, first semester student of Fazl Ali College (FAC), Walu said, “I don’t have problems with online classes but it is not easy to cope with notes and lectures when the network is not in our favour”.
Assistant Professor at FAC, Nokmarenba said if only the network issue can be overturned, “the benefits of teaching online are that it eradicates the intimidation of the teacher inside a traditional classroom and the students have become more responsive and interactive.”
Jennifer, an assistant professor from one of the colleges at Kohima also voices the same opinion. “The classroom wall (sense of intimidation) is absent in digital classrooms so students are more responsive, and in that sense, there are freer interactions in digital classrooms. However, the same is not possible in classrooms with more students,” she said.
While the issue is only with network connectivity in some areas, it’s a different story altogether when it comes to far flung villages.
Phaiba, president of Konyak Students’ Union (KSU) told Nagaland Page, “Students in Mon Town are somewhat adjusting to the transition but the adjoining sub-divisions and the villages around Mon Town faces a grave challenge of irregular power supply and with some barely able to admit their children to schools, the idea of owning a smart-phone is out of the equation for this segment of the society.”
Among, in the teaching faculty of Capital College, Kohima said, “So far no students have complained about online classes except for the connectivity issues.” Queried on her thoughts on online classes, she said, “Online classes are here to stay and the only way to make it work is to boost the prevalent internet connectivity in the State.”
“If we can bring the right resources through the Learning Management System (LMS), which is an online tool for managing study materials and also to track the progress of the pupils, the students do not stand to lose anything but to only benefit through online classes,” she told Nagaland Page.
On the shutdown imposed on Jio services at Mokokchung by AKM, a Jio representative claimed that natural phenomena like heavy rains, landslides, infrastructural activities like road expansion, disrupts the connectivity resulting in network issues temporarily in all connecting routes, and at times Jio encounters intentional fibre cuts. However, as an additional measure to provide a more stable network in Mokokchung and its adjoining areas, Jio is building an additional fibre resilience path which should be ready by August 25, 2020.
In spite of adding the additional path with sizable investment, it should be noted that Jio might end up in situations where the network can be adversely affected due to cuts in both paths simultaneously owing to the ongoing infrastructure development activities or by heavy rain and landslides. However, Jio has teams that are fully engaged to address such incidents for immediate restoration and for routing the channels or adopting other available technical solutions, said the Jio representative.
P&R of Airtel said, “We are trying to provide the best possible service to the customers of Tuensang, and as for Mokokchung, we need some more areas to connect. Our network team is working round the clock and we plan to address all the network related issues very soon.”