Covid-19 Pandemic: Year 2020 used to be of struggle, innovation for teachers – education

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From turning walls of mud houses into blackboards to taking classes through loudspeakers on moving carts, from ‘mohalla’ classes to the use of public announcement system of panchayat bhawans, 2020 used to be full of struggle and innovation for teachers to verify learning used to be not disrupted as schools remained closed because of COVID-19.

The over 10-month-long shutdown inspired creative ways to teach thousands of students who could not log on to online classes because they didn’t have access to smartphones and computers in several villages across the country.

Government school teachers in Dumka’s Dumarthar village in Jharkhand found a new way to impart education to students who shouldn’t have access to smartphones. They created blackboards on the walls of students’ houses to teach them while maintaining social distancing. “We started with an initiative called ‘shiksha aapke dwaar’ (education at your doorstep) to supply education to children who did not have access to smartphones and internet. More than 100 blackboards have been created on walls to teach students at their houses,” said Tapan Kumar, a teacher in Dumarthar.

On a daily basis, Indra Mukhi Chhetri, a maths and science teacher in Sikkim’s Ravangala, visited homes of several students she identified and reached out to around 40 students in a week from class 1 to 5.

“Although I take online classes, these students either shouldn’t have devices or Internet connectivity. Some of them may have access but then how do I take care of equality, others might feel left out. So I used to spend approximately 20 minutes with each and every student in a week.

“I collected their notebooks and write lessons for them, which they’ve to finish over the class lesson of the week. I also brief the parents on what must be done,” she said.

Ghanshyambhai, a teacher in Gujarat’s Janan village, used the public announcement system of the village panchayat to share stories, songs, guidelines for parents on how to care for children all the way through the lockdown period, importance of exercising and a lot more.

“I also announced when I can be at Panchayat Bhawan so students or parents who need to lucid any doubts or to interact can see me there, while maintaining social distancing,” he added.

Teachers in Chhattisgarh conducted Mohalla (neighbourhood) classes in areas with low infection rates.

“We set up mini classrooms, with small groups of students, in community spaces. The teachers spent a few hours in each and every room, engaging with all students no less than twice a week,” some of the teachers said.

Another teacher in Chhattisgarh, Rudra Rana, used his motorcycle to conduct classes.

“The children were not ready to go to study as schools were closed. So I thought why not bring the school to them. Despite the fact that schools continue to be shut, online classes aren’t viable for most rural students. I used a portable umbrella and a chalk board to take classes when I went to the village,” he said.

In Haryana’s Kanwarsika village, the morning bell announcing the start of a teaching session used to ring, not in the native school, but from a van equipped with a loudspeaker.

“Students settled down within homes and in courtyards facing the road. First they recited a prayer following the teacher on loudspeaker and then they attended lessons of one subject on a daily basis,” Noor Bano, a teacher with the government school in Nuh district, said.

In a newly-acquired day-to-day practice, students in Haryana’s Jhamri village opened their textbooks at the sight of the cart that arrived close their homes, filling the vacuum left by closure of schools because of the lockdown and lack of digital infrastructure such as feeble internet connectivity.

“I arranged for a loudspeaker system on a cart. The teachers were asked to turn-wise go with the cart and park it at a feasible location and impart lessons from there. It doesn’t match up to the school room learning levels but will no less than make sure that students’ don’t drop out,” said Satyanarayan Sharma, who runs a school in the village in Jhajjar district.

The lockdown induced by COVID-19 in March prompted schools and colleges to move to the virtual world for teaching and learning activities and exposed the existing digital divide in the country.

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