Visually impaired students of Tiruchi miss out on online classes

V. Sharmila, a visually impaired student of Class 11, feels left out as she is unable to attend online classes conducted by her teachers. Her father, a daily-wager in Cuddalore, cannot afford a Smartphone through which her teachers have been sending audiobooks and voice recordings to learn while at home during the COVID-19 lockdown. “She has been listening to Kalvi TV since June, but is missing out on all the subjects in school,” her father rued.

Like her, some students enrolled at Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School for the Blind in Tiruchi are apprehensive of their future. “If this pandemic situation goes on till November or December, how will I write my examinations?” Ms. Sharmila asked.

Ms. Sharmila’s father has requested few of his friends and even his employer for a loan of ₹10,000 to purchase a Smartphone. “It is very difficult to make a living during this time, but my child studies very well and I do not want to discourage her,” he said. A father of four girls, he is the sole breadwinner of the family.

“Braille textbooks have also not been provided to us yet,” said B. Janaki Priya of Class 12. “If we had the books, we will at least be able to read and understand the subject matter,” she said. Her parents too are unable to afford a Smartphone. “My mother worked as a domestic help but is out of work. My father works as a night watchman. They are finding it difficult to feed us during this time, I cannot burden them with my needs,” Ms. Priya said.

V. Subramanian, Headmaster, Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School for the Blind, said the school is a fully residential campus and provided a healthy learning environment for the students. Now, with COVID-19, the students are all in their respective hometowns and teachers are trying to reach out to them and teach via audio recordings.

Many students have provided their neighbours’ or relatives’ numbers through which the recordings are sent. “When the neighbour returns home from work, or when they have time to spare in the evenings, the students access the audio lessons,” Mr. Subramanian said.

The situation is difficult and the teachers are trying to find ways to reach all the students, he said. “We are mulling over the idea of conference voice-calls which can be done through any mobile phone. We want all our students to be able to access the classes,” he said.

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