Odisha: Can’t afford smartphone for online classes, minor siblings forced to work in fields

Poverty has rendered children across the country, unable to afford a smartphone, helpless owing to online school classes amid the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Rohit and Monika Bidika, siblings from Rayagada in Odisha also share this fate.

Since their family cannot afford a smartphone, Rohit and Monika are forced to work in the fields to earn enough money to be able to afford a device that would allow them to attend online classes.

With schools across Odisha still closed due to the pandemic, virtual classes have replaced physical attendance in schools. Despite the best efforts by central and state governments and private sponsors, thousands of children from marginalized sections of the society are still unable to attend school since their family cannot afford a smartphone.

Rohit, a student of Class VII and his sister Monika who studies in Class VI are one of the many across the country facing this crisis. Residents of Rayagada in Odisha, the Bidika siblings have not attended a single online class since the lockdown.

With no financial help from any quarter, the Bidika siblings have been forced to work in finger millet (mandia) fields so that they could buy a smartphone to attend their classes.

Rohit and Monika Bidika working in the fields in Odisha’s Rayagada district (Photo Credits: Md Suffian/India Today)

A family of eight, the Bidikas hail from Jamulima village in Odisha’s Rayagada district. The family depends on farming to make ends meet.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown has pushed the Bidika family to the verge of helplessness.

Left with no other option, Rohit and Monika Bidika decided to start working in finger millet fields. They hope that they will be able to buy a smartphone with whatever little they earn and attend online classes like their peers.

Tears rolling down his eyes, the siblings’ father Shankar Bhidika told India Today, “We are poor person, we don’t have money to buy a mobile phone, they are assisting me in farming after Mandia harvest is complete, I will get them a phone after selling the millets.”

A student of Class VI, Monika Bhidika said, “We are working here so that we can earn money to buy a mobile phone since we do not have a smartphone to attend on-line classes like our friends.”

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