Collaboration of KP, Airtel and CRY Kick-Starts in Kolkata; Free Smartphones, Data Packs for Children to Access Online Education

For a bunch of Children of Kolkata it was a much-cherished taste of freedom from the digital divide, as they receive free handsets and data cards to access online classes e-learning

Kolkata: As the country gears up to celebrate the Independence Day on 15th August, it was a dream come true moment for a bunch of children from financially struggling quarters of the city, who gathered at the Police library at Ripon Street, and were handed smartphone devices and free data packs by the top officials of Kolkata Police, on the occasion of the ceremonial inauguration of an initiative to support children with access to online education.

The tripartite initiative, namely #PoraShunoCholteyThak (#SikshaNahiRukegi – Education will not stop), collaboratively designed and implemented by Kolkata Police, CRY – Child rights and You and Bharti Airtel will ensure that children coming from financially disadvantageous families and struggling with access to digital learning, will be provided with smartphone devices and customized free data packs – thus empowered to access online education in the testing times of the COVID pandemic.

“It was extremely difficult for me to keep up with studies as I didn’t have a smartphone of my own and couldn’t follow the lessons, nor could I access work-sheets given by our teachers. Now that I have a smartphone, it will help me to catch up with day to day classes and continue my studies,” said a beaming Papiya (name change to protect identity), a student of class 10 at a school in Behala, staying at Taratala CPT Colony – as she received a brand new handset and data card from Soumen Mitra, the Commissioner of Kolkata Police.

Selina (name changed to protect identity), a girl from the same locality and a student of 12th standard at a local school, echoed Diya, with a twinkle of joy in her eyes. “From now on, our performances at exams won’t have to suffer only because of not being gifted with a handset and data connectivity. From tomorrow, things will change as far as attending online classes and giving exams are concerned,” an evidently confident Selina said.

Tiasha (name changed to protect identity), a girl of 11th standard in a South Kolkata school said, “We have only one smart phone, but I cannot access it, as my Mother used to take the phone to her work. So I could not attain my online classes every day, and missed my activity tasks given at school.” She looks happy today, as having a phone at her disposal will help her attend classes regularly.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Soumen Mitra IPS, the Commissioner of Kolkata Police said, “This 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.”

“During the pandemic, Kolkata Police has been relentlessly trying to work closely with community people and trying to help them in many different ways. It was in such a time the path-breaking idea of bridging the digital gap for underprivileged children came up from one of our very senior officers, and we didn’t wait to take it up,” he added.

Mr Mitra thanked Airtel and CRY for partnering with them in this initiative, and wished that this could change children’s lives by helping them continue with their education.

Other top rung officials of Kolkata Police present in the ceremony included the Special Commissioner of Kolkata Police Smt. Damayanti Sen; Additional Commissioners Mr Tanmoy Roychowdhury and Mr Bastav Baidya; Joint Commissioners Mr V. Solomon Neshakumar, Mr Sayed Waquar Raja, Mr Akhilesh Chaturvedi, Mr Sudheer N, Mr Santosh Pandey, Mr D Banerjee and Mr Sujay Chanda; and Deputy Commissioner of Police (STF) Ms Aparajita Rai.

Underscoring the importance of online education, Siddharth Sharma, CEO – West Bengal & Odisha, Bharti Airtel said, “The scope of e-learning is enormous and provides every students with equal access to various educational opportunities. Airtel is proud to be a part of this unique initiative with Kolkata Police and CRY ensuring adequate access to education for underprivileged children during this pandemic.”

Highlighting the long-term impacts of loss of education, Mohua Chatterjee, Programme Head for CRY Operations in Eastern India said, “This partnership aims to link the children with education, and help in realizing their dreams in future. At CRY we believe that children should enjoy their childhood and they realize their full potential to fulfil their dreams. This programme will not only link the children with education, it will also ensure that they are not engaged in child labour or get married off under-age. Our aim is to keep the children safe and free from any abuse and ensure enabling environment to learn and grow.”

 

“We are immensely happy to have joined hands with both Kolkata Police and Bharti Airtel in this initiative. This is just the beginning of journey together with the Kolkata police. We are grateful to them and all the people who have come forward to support the cause,” Mohua added.

 

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 aims to engage children in education and other allied co-curricular activities through bringing online education to their door-steps.

The bucket of activities under the initiative include identifying the children, which has already been done, from five Police Stations within the city. Close to 50 children have received mobile phones with 3 months data pack today, and in due course 300 children will be reached out in the first phase of the initiative.

Further, 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.

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