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Monday, September 27, 2021

Being awarded today: 122 Delhi teachers who went beyond the classroom

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia recognised the many roles donned by teachers since the onset of the pandemic, including ensuring a smooth transition to online learning to a range of Covid-related duties.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: September 5, 2021 9:15:27 am
Being awarded today: 122 Delhi teachers who went beyond the classroom(From left) Sarita Rani, Bharti Kalra, Madhu Kaushik, Shilpi Gupta. (Express photo)

From educators who went out of their way to equip students with digital devices to those who have been counselling them on the anxiety during the pandemic — 122 teachers will receive the State Teachers Award this Teachers’ Day.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia recognised the many roles donned by teachers since the onset of the pandemic, including ensuring a smooth transition to online learning to a range of Covid-related duties. “The teachers of Delhi have played an important role in these tough times. They have not only worked shoulder to shoulder with the administration but have also done remarkable work in vaccination, quarantine centres, distribution of food, mask enforcement, airport duty. Along with these duties, while performing their basic duty, they also continued the teaching online and did not let children’s education come to a halt. During Covid, there was large-scale migration of people, many children went to other states. Despite this, our teachers not only worked to find these children but also called them to Delhi at their own expense, gave devices to the children who could not do online classes, got their data recharged ensuring their studies never stopped,” he said.

For educators, challenges during the last year were plenty.

When remote learning commenced, Sarita Rani Bhardwaj, like teachers across Delhi schools, found that a set of her students could not be contacted since phone numbers in school records were defunct.

“Many of our students come from the Meera Bagh jhuggi and Sonia Camp slums. I tried to find different ways to trace them. I gave their addresses to many people — the courier delivery boy, the boy who delivers milk to my area, the boys who work in grocery stores near my house — and paid them to see if the children can be found there and asked them to give my numbers to the children’s parents. I put their addresses on the WhatsApp groups of all classes from IX-XII. I asked the fathers of students in these groups to try to find the children with houses nearby, at night, as the missing children’s working parents might return home. In this way, I tracked down eight students and got in touch with all of them,” said Sarita Rani, who is a PGT political science teacher and was in a school in Paschim Vihar at the time.

Madhu Kaushik, a teacher in an MCD school in Haiderpur, had the same issue. “In my class of 40 students, only 25 were connected on WhatsApp. At least six to seven were coming to school to collect worksheets weekly. It was difficult to reach the rest, but I spoke to their relatives and people living close to them so that even if they were not joining the learning activities, I was aware they were faring well,” she said.

Similarly, when the transition to online learning happened, Bharti Kalra, vice-principal of a school in Rohini, asked her teachers to find out why attendance was low, and found that most students did not have access to devices.

“The parents of some children had lost their jobs, many kids had lost their parents. I could not tell them to buy smartphones when they are struggling for livelihood. So at our school, we decided to mobilise donations. It started with us donating one or two phones, then I reached out to my family and friends and got 50 phones from my cousin in the US, some from friends in Bahrain and Vietnam, one NGO gave us 60 phones for girls. In this way, we collected and distributed 321 smartphones. The attendance rose from 25 per cent to 85 per cent and above. It didn’t just help our students but also their younger siblings with online learning,” said Kalra.

The school also mobilised funds for 100 students when they struggled to pay their CBSE exam fees.

Also among those being awarded is Education and Vocational Guidance Counsellor Shilpi Gupta, who is in charge of the YUVA toll-free helpline number. Through this, counsellors addressed all kinds of anxieties that students have had in the past year.

“So many have called, afraid that they or someone they love would get Covid. Some had parents who had lost jobs, some were concerned because they had online classes but just had one phone in the family. We even got lots of calls during admission season with people asking how to fill their forms. As counsellors, our main aim is to lend an ear to them, no matter how minute the issue may seem,” she said.

This year, a special category of the award has been created called ‘Face of DOE’, awarded to Rajkumar — a music teacher from RPV Sector 19 Dwarka who reportedly holds a world record for playing the sitar continuously for 32 hours 20 minutes; and Suman Arora — maths lecturer from RPVV Paschim Vihar who helped 23 students clear JEE Mains and 5 clear JEE Advanced in the last year.

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