The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to consider setting up a dedicated channel for education in consultation with the Union government so that students, including specially-abled children, particularly in rural areas, do not suffer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni said due to poor mobile network connections or sometimes lack of funds to purchase a mobile phone, students in rural areas are unable to attend online classes being conducted via apps.
“I do not get a mobile network connection when I travel to Nagpur or Aurangabad. How do you expect a mobile network in rural areas then? The state government should not be relying on mobile networks alone,” Chief Justice Datta said.
The bench said the state government should consider setting up a dedicated channel for education in consultation with the Union government.
"We have hundreds of channels for movies and entertainment, but not a single channel just for education. Every household, including in rural areas, has a television set. During this pandemic, students, especially in rural areas, are suffering,” the court observed.
"Education should not take a backseat. Online studying may work in urban areas, but not in rural areas. People in rural areas may not have the funds to purchase a smartphone. You (government) are conducting classes on Google Meet and Zoom meeting apps. What if there is no mobile network connection only?” the court asked.
For this purpose, there needs to be a dedicated channel for education, not just for the specially-abled children but all those students who are unable to attend classes virtually due to lack of facilities, the bench said.
The court noted that earlier a special one-hour programme on agriculture used to be aired on Doordarshan, and said if such initiatives are taken, then there would be no need for mobile phones for classes. The bench said the government could also explore the possibility of holding educational talk shows on the radio.
The HC was hearing public interest litigation filed by an NGO 'Anamprem', raising concerns over problems being faced by students with disabilities in pursuing their education amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The court will hear the petition on August 5.