Highlight: UGC's bid to bring students back to virtual classes
Has signed agreement with GP to offer affordable Internet to students
MoU with Robi likely in next two weeks
Other operators are expected to engage soon
Earlier, took initiative to provide smartphones to 41,501 students
3,04, 414 students currently enrolled at 39 public universities
In the backdrop of the prolonged closures of educational institutions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University Grants Commission (UGC) plans on bringing students back to virtual classrooms by providing them with affordable Internet with support from mobile operators.
As part of the initiative, the regulatory authority on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the country's largest digital service provider Grameenphone to offer affordable and customised data packs to university students across the country.
Md Kamal Hossain, director (Public University Management Division) at the UGC, told The Business Standard the commission will sign a similar agreement with Robi – the second largest mobile network operator in the country – next week.
The commission is also in the process to engage other mobile operators in the process to empower the possibilities of online education for students who have been out of physical classrooms for eight months, said a source at the UGC.
Grameenphone is the first telecom operator to sign such an MoU with the UGC to make these packs commercially available to all public and private universities that wish to avail those for their students and faculty members.
However, the operator did not disclose the rate of the data packs and the number of students it is going to address.
The very affordable monthly students online education pack of Grameenphone will allow students to access their virtual classrooms through Zoom (via BdREN), Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Gmail, Google Search Engine, and access local university sites.
Beyond the students' connectivity, universities will also have access to broadcasting solutions [SMS and voice broadcast] to reach their students centrally, as well as a centralised control panel to manage the SIM and data packs for their student base.
Earlier, the UGC decided to provide 41,501 students of public universities Tk8,000 each in interest-free loan by January 2021 to help them buy smartphones so that they attend online classes amid the pandemic.
Commenting on this, Md Kamal Hossain said "We have directed the universities and they are providing the loan to students who are demanding applying for it."
Currently, around 304,414 students are enrolled at 39 public universities in the country.
Addressing Thursday's MoU signing programme, UGC Chairperson Professor Dr Kazi Shahidullah said, "Technology adoption has become an integral part of the education sector's evolution during this pandemic situation when our students are struggling in remote areas to get back in their classes. We appreciate Grameenphone's noble intention to support the UGC and serve the greater education sector in this moment of a national crisis."
Kazi Mahboob Hassan, chief business officer of Grameenphone, commented, "Our students are struggling to continue their study. We'll not be able to recover that loss. At Grameenphone, we are committed to empower Bangladesh with our widest 4G LTE network, and our students must get the full benefit of communications technology and digitalisation."
He also said they are honoured to partner with the UGC in this noble initiative.
The leading telecom service provider in Bangladesh, Grameenphone has more than 76 million subscribers.