Students Trek Uphill in Search of Better Internet to Take Online Exam

By | June 5, 2021

A group of university students of Mizoram trek every other day for around two km through a forest to reach a hilltop to write their online examination as that is the only place nearby where they can access the internet. A makeshift hut made of bamboo, tarpaulin, and banana leaves has been erected on the summit of the hill which acts as their ‘exam centre’. They stay there for over three hours to write their papers and then return home the same way.

A social organisation and a student body have set up at least two such huts in Lunglei and Siaha districts of the landlocked state with hilly terrain and deep valleys, gorges, and plains. Mobile towers have been erected in cities and towns by private and government internet service providers, but, Information and Communication Technology Minister Robert Romawia Royte said that it is difficult to have decent net connection in every part of the state due to its geographical characteristics.

Many villages are yet to be covered by the mobile network. The government has allowed students, who are writing online examinations, to travel to cities and towns for availing better internet connectivity despite lockdown, but it is not possible for everyone.

Social organisation Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Siaha-based Mara Students Organisation (MSO) came up with the idea of setting up temporary huts on hilltops so that students can take their examinations. One such hut was made at Tlao-tla hilltop near Mawhrei, a small village in south Mizorams Siaha district bordering Myanmar, by the MSO, the student body of Mara ethnic people.

“At least 23 undergraduate students from the village are currently writing their even-semester examinations. They need a 2 km uphill trek through a forest to reach the hut and return home,” MSO general secretary Judson KT Zephatha. Some others also go there for their online classes and, at times, carry benches for their use, he said.

The village, located about 428 km from Mizoram capital Aizawl and 110 km from the district headquarter town, has no mobile tower and 2G internet facility is accessible sometimes, Zephatha told PTI. He said that the MSO had made several appeals to the state government and internet service providers to improve mobile network in Siaha district but to no avail.

In Tlabung, a border town located about 250 km from Aizawl, the local branch of the YMA constructed a Mawhrei-like hut at an elevated ground where internet facility is smooth to facilitate students write their examinations. Though there are three internet service providers, the connectivity is very poor everywhere in the border town, said Vanlalhriatpuia, a local resident.

When contacted, the information and communication technology minister said, “The state government has been making efforts to resolve internet connectivity crisis in the state from the beginning and constituted a task force to deal with the issue.” However, Royte said that internet and mobile services are the subjects of the central government and not the state. The situation is different in Mizorams southernmost Lawngtlai district.

“Before the commencement of online examinations, we have approached authorities of internet service providers, who boosted their services in the district,” Lai Students’ Association president F Vanlalruatpuia said. Mizoram University has started taking even-semester examinations from June 1 for about 24,000 undergraduate students in various departments or courses through online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, its Controller of Examinations Prof Lalnuntluanga told PTI.

“This is the third time the university is holding online examinations for students during the pandemic since last year. Amid the pandemic, we have no other option despite poor internet connectivity in the state,” he said.

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