How Radio Dhimsa is helping Odisha's tribal students tide over digital divide

The station broadcasts educational content to over 2,000 students of classes 1-5 in 62 villages 

By Hrusikesh Mohanty
Published: Tuesday 06 July 2021
How Radio Dhimsa is helping Odisha’s tribal students tide over the digital divide. Photo: Hrusikesh Mohanty

A community radio station is bringing school lessons to the poor tribal students in Odisha’s Koraput district who don’t have internet access or cannot afford a smartphone. The endeavour attempts to close the digital divide in imparting education amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Odisha State School Education Programme Authority started streaming live classes on YouTube from June 21, 2021. But hundreds of students, mostly in the tribal districts like Koraput, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh and Keoinjhar, however, do not have the internet connectivity to access the lessons.

Odisha’s telephone density was 76.46 per cent against the national average of 87.37 per cent as on March 2020, according to Odisha Economic Survey, 2020-21.

Similarly, 43.95 per cent of the population were Internet subscribers compared to the national average of 55.12 per cent, it stated.

“The poor tribals cannot afford the expensive smartphone sets to continue their classes,” said Sudhir Kumar Rout, an educationist.

Dhimsa Community Radio Center set up by South Odisha Voluntary Action (SOVA), a Koraput based non-profit, broadcasts educational content to over 2,000 students of classes I-V in 62 villages of six panchayats in Koraput and Lamptaput blocks.

Most of the beneficiaries are the children of Paraj, one of the tribal communities in the state, said Sanjit Patnayak, director, SOVA.

The organisation has developed education programs on Mathematics and English for primary levels, he added. “One lesson is covered in a day. The program has been designed with the help of school teachers and education experts of the district resource group.”

The radio streams educational content for nine hours every day: One hour of live programme and two hours of pre-recorded sessions. The same programmes are repeated in the afternoon and evening, said Udai Nath Hantal, who operates the centre.

“Radio Dhimsa started broadcasting educational content for students in 2016. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 and classroom studies stopped, we focused on the special education programme for children,” he said.  

The objective of the repetition of the program is to ensure all the community members get the benefit of the programme, he said.

All programmes are designed in Odia and Desiya dialects as entire tribes and non-tribes do use Desiya as a common communication dialect, he added. “We have set up 82 listeners clubs in the areas for smooth access of the programme.”

The channel also has shows to create awareness on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and vaccination programme in collaboration with the Koraput administration, he added. 

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