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Bhelolpur (Mohali), (Aditi) : To facilitate seamless e-learning in government schools amid Covid-19 pandemic, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday virtually launched the second phase of the ‘Punjab Smart Connect Scheme’, marked by distribution of smart phones to another 80,000 class 12 students of Government Schools.

The event witnessed simultaneous distribution of phones at 845 schools today by various Ministers, MLAs and other dignitaries across the state.

Kick-starting the second phase at the Government Senior Secondary School here, the Chief Minister announced that the remaining 45443 smart phones of the targeted 1,75,443 would be provided to students by the end of this month, to fulfill his government’s commitment to further strengthen digital infrastructure in schools. While his government had tried to distribute these phones urgently to meet the online education challenges amid Covid, closure of the industry had somewhat delayed the process, he added.

In the 1st phase, 50000 students had received smart phones. Under the scheme, the state government is spending Rs 87.84 crore for the digital empowerment of 88059 boys and 87284 girls. The Chief Minister said that 877 tablets were also being provided today in 22 senior secondary schools at the cost of Rs. one crore. Earlier, 2625 tablets were provided to 372 primary schools at the cost of Rs. 2.99 crore.

Addressing the students, Capt. Amarinder said when the Punjab Congress promised smart phones in its manifesto, nobody knew these phones would become so vital for students due to the Covid pandemic. He said he wanted Punjab’s youngsters to be abreast with the latest technological advancements for effective promotion of digital education, which leverages technology in a big way in the present scenario. The Chief Minister said that smart phones and tablets would equip the students to meet the challenges of education during the trying times of pandemic.

The Chief Minister reiterated his government’s firm commitment to provide the best infrastructure in schools to enable students to compete with their peers in private and convent schools. In this context, he said 7842 schools and had been converted into smart schools with the latest infrastructure, coupled with computers, tablets etc, and 1400 more government schools would also be converted into smart schools by the end of the next year. Further, he said the School Education Department had converted 16589 classrooms as smart classrooms across the state, and the remaining would also be covered under this scheme in the next six months.

Even as he congratulated the teachers for preparing the e-content, which is now used while teaching the students online, the Chief Minister stressed the need for keeping pace with the fast-paced changes in education globally. With Punjabis settled around the world, it was important for students also to learn English and other languages to enable them to be job-ready across the globe, he added.

His government, said the Chief Minister, had ensured that every student studying in Govt. Schools gets the best education with the help of the latest gadgets. Punjab is the first state in the country to universalize Pre-Primary School Education in the year 2017 itself, and the same is now fully operational in all the primary schools. As many as 8393 posts of the pre-primary school teachers have been created and the same would be filled shortly, he said, adding that the introduction of the online transfer policy for teachers, based on merit and performance, was another major step by his government to raise the bar in education by bringing transparency into the system.

The Chief Minister said the recent reforms implemented in government schools to raise the standard of education had led to unprecedented increase in enrolment by 14.9% as an increasing number of students were shifting from private and government schools. He also underlined the need to promote sports education, for which his government was planning to set up gyms in all schools, he added.

Conceding the demand of Cabinet Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, who is also MLA from Mohali, the Chief Minister announced that the school would be upgraded to senior secondary level and named after 1971 war martyr Captain Ami Singh, Vir Chakra. Furthermore, Rs. 25 lakh would be given to the Government senior secondary School for Girls Sohana, he said.

On the occasion, Sports and Youth Services Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi suggested district-level Captain Smart Connect Conclaves for the Chief Minister to interact with students before or after their exams to enable the latter to share their experiences on online education. Cabinet Minister Balbir Sidhu also expressed his appreciation for the Chief Minister’s efforts to promote digital and smart education in the state.

Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla said these Smart phones were distributed at 845 locations across the State at the cost of Rs. 88 Crore provided for the purpose. He said that 1400 more schools to be converted into smart schools.

Industries and Commerce Minister Sunder Sham Arora said that smart phones would be instrumental in bolstering e-learning amongst the students amid Covid-19 pandemic.

PPCC President Sunil Jakhar, while congratulating the Chief Minister for this remarkable initiative, said that it would result in ensuring quality education which alone can tackle social unrest as only an enlightened and educated mind can do that.

Punjab Youth Congress President Birinder Dhillon also lauded the efforts of the Chief Minister to empower the students through such pathbreaking initiatives.

Earlier Chief Minister also interacted with the tiny tots of the Pre Primary wing of the school.

Prominent among others who were present at the occasion included MLA Navtej Singh Cheema, Principal Secretary to CM Tejvir Singh, Director General School Education Mohd Tayyab, DC Mohali Girish Dayalan, SSP Mohali Satinder Singh DPI (SE) Sukhjit Pal Singh and DPI (EE) Lalit Kishore Ghai.

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