Panini School in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu does not allow students to carry mobile phones in normal times, now its online classes for around 400 students have been making such gadgets part of their daily life.
The Kathmandu Valley has been put under a lockdown since late April in response to a revisit of the coronavirus, under which schools are shut down to help control the spread of the virus.
"Most of our students are now taking online classes," said Karna Bahadur Shahi, founding principal of the Panini Education Network which runs the school.
"In the past, we had to advise the students not to overuse mobile phones and other gadgets but such a gadget has been indispensable for their study due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
As teaching goes online, demand for smartphones has grown substantially in the Himalayan country, leading to a growing import of mobile phones during the first 11 months of the current 2020-21 fiscal year which ends in mid-July.
According to the latest data by the Department of Customs, Nepal imported mobile phones worth 34.14 billion Nepali rupees (around 287 million U.S. dollars) during the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, in contrast with 15.74 billion Nepali rupees over the same period of last fiscal year.
As to the number of mobile phones, 6.55 million sets of mobile phones were imported during the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, as against 4.07 million sets for the same period of last fiscal year.
"Soaring demand for smartphones for education purposes is the main reason behind a massive growth in import of mobile phones," said Sanjaya Agrawal, chief executive officer of Tele Direct, an authorized distributor of Xiaomi mobile phones in Nepal.
"Another reason is that border control measures taken to control the spread of coronavirus have also discouraged the entry of smuggled and counterfeit mobile phones," he told Xinhua.
Agrawal saw a growth of 30-40 percent in sales of Xiaomi mobiles in Nepal in the last year, as Nepal imported over 60 percent of mobile phones from China, although India is emerging as a big exporter of mobile phones to its neighbor since smartphone makers are assembling their gadgets in India too.
According to customs data, Nepal imported from China mobile phones worth 20.76 billion Nepali rupees (174 million U.S. dollars) during the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, which accounted for some 61 percent of the total value, while mobile phones valued at 11.83 billion Nepali rupees (99 million U.S. dollars) were brought in from India during the same period.
"We import Xiaomi mobile phones both from China and India," said Agrawal. ■