Students of the zilla parishad school in Baliwali, Palghar, visited the school after months of lockdown on Friday to collect the smartphones that were donated by a 62-year-old retired reinsurance consultant Venkatesh Chakravarty.
HT had reported on September 14 about assistant teacher Pralhad Kathole’s efforts to keep students engaged during the lockdown. The report further said that since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, online classes were not an option for the students in Baliwali as only two students’ parents had smartphones in a class of 44. So, Kathole had scanned a range of currency notes and arranged them on a sheet of paper so that his pupils from Class 3 and 4 could learn basic mathematical concepts of addition and subtraction.
Moved by the plight of the students, Chakravarty, donated 15 smartphones with prepaid internet connection for three months. The smartphones and the internet will be shared among the students, said Kathole.
“During the lockdown, those who are privileged are continuing with online education but some sections of the society are facing huge disadvantages. We can’t just leave it to somebody else to solve the problems,” said Chakravarty, a Mulund resident.
“I was impressed by Pralhad’s passion for his students’ education,” Chakravarty added. After working out the details with Kathole, he paid ₹95,000 for the devices as well as the internet connection.
On Friday, students, accompanied by their parents reached the school to receive the devices as Chakravarty joined them via a video call. “I contacted science educators from Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education for mobile applications to be installed on the phone for self-learning. I feel one-on-one meeting with children is important, so I will be working in a blended mode with kids which is partly offline and partly online,” Kathole said.
Located around 100km northeast of Mumbai, Baliwali is a cluster of hamlets spread across the forests in the Wada taluka of Palghar. Most students at the zilla parishad school belong to the scheduled tribe community and four girls belong to other backward classes. While most of these families live off small pieces of land, many parents migrate seasonally to work in brick kilns in nearby Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Vasai.