Several lakh students of classes 9 to 12 studying in government schools in Andhra Pradesh were on Monday left disappointed as the state could not keep its promise of delivering them laptop computers.
Government sources now say the proposal to distribute laptops has been dropped as “they are costly and many digital learning apps don’t work on them”.
Now, the government is contemplating to distribute only Tabs (tablet computers) to students of class 8.
Each Tab, loaded with digital learning content, will cost the government Rs. 12,000. “We are planning to distribute the Tabs by September this year,” a senior education official said.
As the class 8 students will have to carry the same Tab to the further classes, a laptop will not be required, according to the official.
Every student getting into class 8 in government and aided schools each year will be given the Tab.
Last year, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy announced that students of classes 9 to 12 could opt for laptop computers in lieu of the Rs. 15,000 dole (now reduced by Rs. 2,000) under Ammavodi scheme, which is meant to encourage mothers to send their children to schools.
He said the laptops would be delivered in the 2022 academic year.
Accordingly, 8,21,655 students of classes 9 to 12 opted for laptops instead of the cash dole. Over 1.10 lakh of these students were otherwise covered under Vasati Deevena, another freebie scheme.
But the government could not deliver the promised laptops, as it did not strike a deal with the suppliers over prices.
Last week, Education Minister Botsa Satyanarayana said they were negotiating the price with the suppliers and it would be finalised and the laptops delivered to students along with Ammavodi.
However, the CM only launched the distribution of the cash freebie, in the third round of Ammavodi, on Monday through an official’s laptop.
In his address at the Ammavodi event, the CM only spoke about distribution of Tabs to class 8 students and did not mention laptops.
“I am in class 10 and opted for a laptop instead of cash. But now we are told that there is no laptop. I may have to wait for another year, if they give it in junior inter (class 11),” lamented K Naga Prabha of Guntur.
Government sources said the task of procuring laptops was entrusted to the AP Technology Services. The APTS sought to purchase each laptop for Rs 18,000, depending on the configuration.
However, the suppliers were said to have quoted a price of Rs 26,000 per laptop, making it unaffordable for the government.
“There was also the problem of supply. The required number of gadgets were not readily available due to scarce production, caused by shortage of chipsets,” a top official dealing with the issue told PTI.
The extra financial burden on the state would be Rs 657 crore if laptops were purchased at the rate quoted by the suppliers, he pointed out.