Siberian schoolboy's novel solution for e-learning during pandemic lands him government adviser role

Nataliya Vasilyeva
·2-min read
Russian student and blogger climbs a tree for better celular internet connection in his remote Siberian village - Reuters
Russian student and blogger climbs a tree for better celular internet connection in his remote Siberian village - Reuters

Bad internet was no excuse to miss class for a 21-year old student from a Siberian village who climbed up a tree to get signal but ended up shooting to national stardom and getting a job offer from the local governor.

For several days earlier this month, Alexei Dudoladov, who studies at the Omsk Institute of Maritime Transport, would walk from his village of Stankevichi, population 48, to a nearby field.

He would then climb up a sprawling birch tree to catch 3G signal and get into his Zoom classes as all in-person classes were suspended in the region due to coronavirus restrictions.

“It’s no May weather outside, and I already had pneumonia,” the stern-looking student said in a TikTok video address to governor Alexander Burkov that he recorded up in the tree. “I would like to ask you on behalf of all students who have bad internet: How can we fix this issue?”

The appeal by the student living more than 2,000 kilometres east of Moscow had a special resonance in Russia where the birchtree is regarded as a national symbol.

Mr Dudoladov, who only has 2G at his home, started a TikTok vlog this summer, posting videos about village life from the same tree.

Inundated with offers of help from telecommunications companies and senior officials, the student was invited to meet the governor himself on Friday who vowed to expand the region’s programme bringing broadband to rural areas.

Mr Dudalodov’s village is too small to be included in that programme but authorities have decided to install equipment to boost the mobile internet signal there.

The governor’s office said that the student has accepted their invitation to join the government’s public council where he would be responsible for overseeing efforts to “close the digital divide.”

“If they have placed trust in me, I would be able not only to pass on what people are saying but will be checking myself if the signal is good and will certainly make my own contribution,” Mr Dudoladov said in a statement released by the governor’s press office.