Every morning, the six teachers at Upgraded Plus Two School in Sohri Khas village, 41km from here in Jharkhand’s Palamu district, gather in the courtyard. In their hands is a tablet connected to a biometric reader on which they have to record their thumbprints for attendance. The problem is the internet connection is frequently absent. This forces two or three of the them to climb a palash tree in the school campus while the students watch. On a good day, they get a weak connection high on the tree’s branches.

“There is no internet connectivity on our campus. We can access a very weak 2G network if we climb up the tree and wait, but even that is unreliable,” says science teacher Arpan Kumar Gupta. The six teachers are all between their late 20s and late 40s, and not all of them can climb the tree, certainly not every day. The rest have to fall back on conventional methods.

“When the tablet does not connect to the internet, we mark our attendance on the register. There has to be some record,” Gupta adds.

They are not alone in this predicament. Across northwestern Jharkhand, teachers at schools have been unable to record their attendance online, as part of a new state government initiative, because the infrastructure in the rural parts of the state is just not up to the task of handling digital connectivity demands.

Under the Gyanodaya scheme launched by CM Raghubar Das in 2017, the state government began distributing tablets to schools. The devices were pre-installed with the e-Vidya Vahini app, which records biometric attendance of teachers and also monitors the admission and drop-out rates and other parameters.