Midhun Manohar, Rubeena T. A.
Abstract: The humankind is battling the devastating disease, COVID-19. Tougher situations often lead to innovative ideas, as we are witnessing the emergence of a virtual world, where modern communication technologies start to dominate all aspects of human life. This revolutionary change has also modernized educational structure and pedagogy in many countries. The virtual classrooms and online learning platforms are becoming widely popular. Though, it is the need of the hour to adjust to this tough situation, one has to analyses whether it has any negative implications. One such key issue arising in Kerala, the southernmost state in India is that the new educational setup has added to the pressure on the students belonging to backward communities especially the tribal people. These people who cannot afford modern amenities such as television, computers or smartphones have limited access to the virtual class rooms. This has led to confusion and agony among the tribals regarding their education. The present study discusses the response of students from the Kani tribes, living in two areas having varying accessibility. It analyses whether online education is effective in tribal areas and whether it has led to any form of social discrimination. The data was collected with the help of questionnaire surveys and telephonic interviews. The study shows that, in least accessible settlements, most of the students are unaware of the online classes. The lack of modern communication system has restricted their accessibility to education. The online classes couldn't meet the aspirations of students from isolated areas and those belonging to the poorer socioeconomic strata. It becomes the collective responsibility of the government, elected representatives, social welfare organizations, NGOs, charity workers and the community to ensure access to education among the marginalized tribal children of the state, thereby erasing out the digital divide.
Keywords: Virtual Education, Digital Divide, social equity, Tribal Education