‘School closed but learning goes on’ is an oft used term these days every time the topic of education comes up. The ‘locked down’ in March left the whole of India transformed. The first few months saw children enjoy their ‘extended holidays.’ But for how long can we afford this scenario to last? When will the schools reopen? There is great uncertainty surrounding this issue. Thus the concept of online education caught root in an atmosphere rife with chaos, apprehension, suspicion, and rumors.
Online education, it was clear at the beginning itself, was not within everyone’s reach. 50% of students in my school did not have access to devices needed to receive online education, I realized. Thus under the paucity of mobile, laptop, computer, tab, or internet connection, online education took its first uncertain steps, making do with facilities at hand. In the beginning, children were enamored. Parents who refused to let children handle mobiles started offering them voluntarily if only to study. All fine up to this point. Then followed daily uploading lessons online, and a deluge of videos, pdf, ppt presentations, YOU tube links, zoom lectures, google meet, Webex, etc. My students were caught in a deluge of confusing details. From glitches like mobile not being able to support video, ppt, open house sessions, etc., to how to mute/unmute lectures. However, they are gradually coming to terms with it.
There are families where there are only one mobile and four children laying their claim to use it. Who should be granted preference for its use? Also, elder family members need to use the mobile at work. “ I am a rickshaw driver and I need a mobile for online booking. If I give my mobile to the children to study, how do I earn a living?” says someone. “My working hours are from 8 in the morning to 9 at night, Is it not possible to schedule lectures before 8 a.m.?” says another. These and many such questions pave our way to online education.
Children are getting claustrophobic at home. They are finding it difficult to express themselves freely. Sharing is confined exclusively to social media. One cannot meet friends and teachers in person. One cannot talk about what is weighing on one’s mind. In recognition of this problem, I decided to plan a Sunday session every fortnight with the children at a time of their convenience to chat and share thoughts close to their hearts. A lot of surprising things came to light as they opened up. The children had learned a lot of things during the locked down period. Some had gone back to their villages; some lent a helping hand to their friends in need; while some formed new groups and undertook online courses and figured out ways to help parents at home.
Children’s mindsets have changed totally. This realization drove home the importance of skill-based education. No school can afford to ignore the fact that children are the citizens of tomorrow; that molding them, boosting their confidence, helping them overcome depression, and involving them in work is extremely important. This laid the plinth of individual dialogue and through it scaling the challenges faced. For instance, the number of siblings is more and there is only one mobile between them. The problem was sorted by affixing different study timings for all with the elder siblings teaching the younger ones. Various birth/death anniversaries were observed by organizing competitions that recharged the atmosphere once more.
For those who haven’t joined any school as yet or those who haven’t decided to flow along with online education, we came up with a house to house campaign, Here we took the responsibility of protection by following all prescribed rules to the ‘T’. The campaign succeeded in drawing 50 more children in the flow of online education.
Every day that rises is going to set, joining the past. A past that enriches itself with experience and leaves an indelible mark on the future. This has been amply proved in the case of today’s ‘Corona days’ re-writing history with every passing day in the field of education.