Here’s How Odisha’s Community Radios are Bridging the Digital Divide

Ever since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there is little doubt that the education sector has been one of the worst-hit. Traditionally based on the pillars of classroom interaction, school education today is confronted with the challenge of adapting to the digital narrative. Yet, in a state where many do not enjoy the privilege of smartphones or internet connectivity, how does schooling go on?

This is where Odisha’s community radios have stepped in to fill the void. These radio stations, despite limited resources, have been broadcasting informative educational content through their platforms.

Radio Surabhi (90.4 MHz), from Nayagarh’s Daspalla, has been pioneering through such a programme, titled ‘Sikshya Surabhi’. The programme is targeted to meet the fundamentals of inclusive education, especially for visually impaired children. The programme, partly funded by the Australian High Commission, has a spread of over a hundred episodes providing basic education for children in standards one to five.

Sikshya Surabhi’s content has been carefully curated by twenty subject experts and has been authorized by the Odisha School Education Programme Authority (OSEPA) for circulation amongst students in audio formats. “The OSEPA has asked its block resource teachers and district coordinators to ensure that students access all the episodes. The state-level OSEPA office has sought monthly reports from the officials on the reach of Sikshya Surabhi in their areas. So our endeavour to help primary students get basic education has been integrated with the government system,” Radio Surabhi chairman Shishir Das said.

Similarly, Radio Dhimsa – a community radio based out of Koraput – is broadcasting educational content over its channels to keep learners in the loop. It has reached out to around a thousand pre-primary and primary school children through its initiatives. For primary kids, it airs stories, jingles, songs, and moral-value based stories. “Access of the internet is a challenge for tribal children in the remotest villages of the blocks. For them, radio has replaced even the mobile,” said Sanjit Pattnaik of Sova, the non-profit that runs Radio Dhimsa. In areas where the broadcast is not directly accessible, on-ground volunteers carry the programmes on their phones and ensure that children listen to it in their villages.

In the era of a tectonic shift towards digitisation, where underprivileged children have been losing ground to their city-based counterparts in parameters of online learning, these radio stations have proved their selfless contribution to the cause. Indeed, these radio stations are providing the last-mile connectivity for places where even the state government may not be able to deliver – especially in adverse times as these.