Most of the departments at Dhaka University are holding online classes with a lower attendance amid the virus pandemic since poor internet connectivity, low-tech devices and financial hardship have left a large number of students out of their classes.
Students hailing from rural areas face hassle to attend online classes frequently since the DU launched online classes on July in line with the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) instructions after the institution was closed on mid-March due to the pandemic.
DU officials said, the Master’s programme of Public Administration department saw a 50 percent attendance. The final year philosophy classes witnessed a 40 percent attendance while Master’s programme at Islamic Studies department has it as low as 25 percent, they added.
Nasimul Huda, a third-year student of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism (MCJ), told Bangladesh Post that he cannot attend online classes properly due to weak network signal.
“My devices are for 3G technology and I can’t avail 4G facility. And, 3G network is not much stable disrupting my online classes. Besides, getting a Wi-Fi connection is time-consuming,” said Huda, who resides in Rangpur.
“I have to travel two kilometers to the Upazila town every time to attend the classes since I do not get network at home. But internet connection sometimes get disconnected too,” he lamented.
Students said, high cost of data package adds insult to injury since the pandemic hit their families’ economic conditions. Some even can’t afford it.
With government slapping new taxes, cost of mobile data packages goes up. A student who spent Tk 100 for a data pack two months ago, now pays Tk 130 to Tk 140 to avail the same volume of data.
Shahriar Onirban, a student of the Islamic History department, said he faces hardship to buy expensive data packages.
“Internet gets disconnected automatically too. I also use a low-quality cell phone. Besides, environment at my house are for favorable for study. As I couldn’t bring my books while leaving the university, I am struggling to keep up with others,” he added.
Government should help the students to fulfil the latter’s necessity, he urged.
Sadia Farhana, who hails from Poilanpur village in Pabna, said, internet often gets disconnected due to poor network so she cannot attend her classes.
"To avail an uninterrupted connection, I have to go out of my house which is not okay here," said Farhana, a student of Islamic Studies department.
MCJ’s Nasimul said, the government or the university authorities can arrange short-term loans to help the students avail smartphones.
High-speed internet connectivity can be ensured in rural area after talking to the telecom operators, he added.
Contacted, DU Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof ASM Maksud Kamal said additional classes on weekends and vacations might compensate losses once the situation becomes normal.
According to a UGC report released on May, at least 13 percent of the public university students do not use smartphone making it difficult for them to attend online classes from rural areas.
On August 9, the UGC also wrote to the vice-chancellors (VCs) of 45 public universities asking the latter to prepare lists of students who needs assistance to buy smartphones to attend online classes and send the list by August 25.