Posted by an Art Teacher, New Delhi
“Have you heard the Board Exam papers are postponed?”
“Why is there so much of murmuring? Are the schools really closing?”
In the middle of the 2020 Board Exams, the entire world shut down. And our schools were abruptly closed till 31st March. At least somebody thought for the safety of students and teachers.
But when does one work on the results? When will the children get their Report Cards? When will we prepare for the next session? At this time of the year, there is so much work. Hardly any respite. If the schools remains closed, will the new session begin late? No clear answers…
Lockdown created so many problems! Problems for workers across society – businessmen, doctors, migrants. What about education, schools, students, teachers? Did someone think of the problems we faced? Everybody thought children are studying online and everything is just fine. But for us it was- begin the new session, begin classes… Oh! and just download the apps!
For years, we students and teachers have been habituated to offline. Unless we face children, we don’t feel we are teaching. It was beyond our wildest imagination to teach alone in a room without children. There was just no interaction. Neither we had study material, nor the children. We all thought lockdown would last a week but gradually it got extended.
“Begin the session in April! How?”
“Find out the ways? Download the App! You are teachers, educated, you can’t abandon the children.”
Everything moved so fast. There was no time to pause and understand.
“Get digitally evolved! Now-a-days everybody has a mobile- designate one for your classes.”
And then, what about our own children who too needed mobile for their classes? There were too many users for a single mobile. Suddenly, the mobile got busier than us. The mobile data that lasted for days now got used up in 2 days. There was a wait list for Wi-fi connections. If students didn’t join in a class, the teacher became answerable. If the student joined and left midway, still the teacher remained answerable!
Earlier, when we used to go to school, our work would wind up on time. But now, we have lost our sense of time. Morning till evening, we are busy with school. Whoever, whenever can make a call. Parents, students, school head, anyone. Keep a constant eye on WhatsApp for message, online meeting. Earlier, there were 40-50 children in a class. Now that we teach online, there can be any number. What is the issue, if there are 180 in a class? But then, what about their worksheets and report cards?
The Government requested not to cut down the salary of workers, even if they don’t make it to work. But we were working, yet not getting our full salary. With children not attending school, there was no fees coming in. Then, from where do we get our salary? If teachers are not coming to school, why give them Travelling Allowance (TA)? But did any of us get paid extra for the Wi-fi? What about the separate mobile for ourselves, the ones for the children, the laptop and the strong Wi-fi signal?
The school would change into a Shelter for migrant labourers, sometimes COVID-19 Centre and sometimes Centre for ration distribution. The teachers had to be around to do their duty. During this time, so many teachers got infected with COVID-19, so many lives were lost but none got media coverage.
The first timers to school were confused. “Mummy, does school mean computers?” The P.T (physical training) period and Art classes along with other subjects went online. Imagine P.T, the much-awaited period for every child. One could never think of it without a playground. Now it has watered down to exercise in front of a camera of a small device in a small room of a house. Once P.T meant loads of fun, running around with friends but now the faces of these friends are not even clear on the screen.
A similar challenge was faced while taking Art Class. It is a practice based subject and I did not know how to tackle and go about it. But every problem has a solution, and this problem too was resolved by the young generation. One of my students suggested to me “Ma’am make videos and just screen share during the class. I liked the idea of making videos but how do I get a tripod during lockdown? Second, who will hold the mobile phone for so long and shoot? When things look hopeless, the Indian Jugaad comes handy. I took a “murra” (cane stool) and a “karchhi” (ladle from the kitchen) and managed to set the mobile. I made videos and posted on YouTube. The kids were free to watch and do their work as per their convenience. Everybody at home had classes at the same time. Many a times Art classes would get missed when siblings would have “more” important Maths or Science classes. With the videos that ceased to be a problem.
I always thought when the concept of Home Schooling is in, why is it important for children to attend school. Anyways academics is happening online, then why do they need to go to school? Is it so important to teach our children social skills? Do children go to school for only academics?
In school, children have their friends. Teenagers have a lot of thoughts that they cannot share with everyone. Their parents may not have the time to listen and understand. Don’t children go through stress?
“Come on! Students just need to study. Why should they be depressed?”
The truth is that today students have a much higher rate of depression. That’s the reason behind so many teen suicides. School provides a platform to share their feelings with their friends. Lockdown made them lose their friends as well. Everyone just hoped that schools reopen at the earliest.
Schools opened finally after 10 months, but only for classes 10th and 12th. The situation is changing but it will take its time for things to go back to normal. The past has been difficult, but it taught us a lot. We used to run away from technology, but now we have developed an understanding of it. We are no longer scared of it. For generations we thought learning can happen only in classrooms. But COVID-19 and the lockdown proved it wrong.
If you have the passion, one can do any work at any time even in the most challenging circumstances. The teachers have proved this during the lockdown. May all students start going to school again, may our lives go back to the old ways, that is all I hope and pray.
Cover image: Author
Story images: Author
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