Supporting Children with access to Online Education, initiative by Kolkata Police, Airtel and CRY

Photo: Jaikishan Patel

As the possibility of children losing two consecutive years of education becomes very real and the online education gaining currency across the country during the COVID pandemic, Kolkata Police and Bharti Airtel join hands with Child Rights and You (CRY), to support them with access to online education.

The tripartite collaboration, namely #PoraSunaDarabeNa(#SikshaNahiRukegi– Education will not stop), will ensure that children coming from financially disadvantageous families struggling with access to digital learning, will be provided with smartphone devices and customized free data packs for one year – an initiative that will help them accessonline education.

Prolonged closure of schools to curb the spread of the pandemic has posed a mountain of challenges to the school-going children in the country, and while both Union and the State governments have come forward in taking timely measures to ensure that children are not left out of education, low penetration of internet and access to smartphones has hampered online education for close to one and half years now.

Keeping this in mind, the current collaborative initiative aimsto engage children in education and other allied co-curricular activities through bringing online education to their door-steps.

The initiative aims to cover around five hundred children preferably of standard 8 to 12 spread across 73 police stations within Kolkata Police.

The bucket of activities under the initiative will include identifying the children jointly by the local police and CRY, and providing them with the devices. Local police in collaboration with CRY will facilitate obtaining of SIM cards and customized special internet data packs among the identified children after proper KYC. CRY will support Kolkata police in tracking children for online classes and ensure that they are able to make use of the device and the data for their learning thereby, create an enabling learning environment for children to continue education and not engage in labour, early marriage or trafficking, and work closely with families and other government stake-holders to ensure a safe environment for children.

Commenting on the initiative, an official from Kolkata Police said, “This initiative is a small attempt on behalf of KP to ensure that school going children, especially those in their adolescent years, belonging to families that cannot afford the digital access to learning do not fall prey to frustration and resultant susceptibility to crime – both as victims as well as perpetrators.”

Underscoring the importance of online education, Siddharth Sharma, CEO – West Bengal & Odisha, Bharti Airtel said, “The scope of e-learning is enormous and bridging this digital education divide can help realize the potential of each student. Airtel is proud to be a part of this unique initiative with Kolkata Police and CRY ensuring equal and adequate access to education for underprivileged children during this pandemic.”

Highlighting the long-term impacts of loss of education, Trina Chakrabarti, Regional Director, CRY (East) said, “The two consecutive waves of the COVID pandemic have impacted lives of children in multiple ways. The closure of schools kept them away from education for more than a year now, which exacerbated the risk of drop-outs. Though the online education has become popular in some sections of the society, its benefits are yet to reach the last mile child.”

“We are immensely happy to have joined hands with both Kolkata Police and Bharti Airtel in this initiative. They are known for their long-standing efforts to protect and nurture childhood, and I’m sure this collaboration will go a long way in supporting the underprivileged children weather the crisis,” Trina added.

As government data reveals, currently, one in every four persons (24 per cent) in the country owns a smartphone; one in every 10 (11 per cent) households possess any form of computer devices and one in every four (24 per cent) of Indian households has internet connectivity (MOSPI 2019).

A more recent report shows that merely 8.5 per cent students in India have access to internet – which is a huge technological deterrent that costs children of their education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of schools (COVID-19 and School Closures: One year of education disruption, UNICEF, March 2021).