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In Delhi, three civic bodies hope to teach on WhatsApp

While the response from students has been encouraging, officials are struggling to bridge the digital gap — many parents do not own phones with internet connection; some don’t know to use WhatsApp; others have jobs that don’t let them work from home.

Written by Abhinav Rajput | New Delhi | Published: April 15, 2020 1:48:46 am
reuters_whatsapp_759 MCD schools have children, mostly from poor families, studying in classes I to V.

Schools under the East, South and North MCDs have started online classes for children, under which study material is being shared by teachers via WhatsApp groups. However, senior officials engaged in executing the project face a tough task.

While the response from students has been encouraging, officials are struggling to bridge the digital gap — many parents do not own phones with internet connection; some don’t know to use WhatsApp; others have jobs that don’t let them work from home.

MCD schools have children, mostly from poor families, studying in classes I to V. The EDMC has 365 schools with more than 1.75 lakh children, North civic body has 714 schools with around 3.5 lakh students while South has 581 schools with 2.5 lakh children.

EDMC Commissioner Alka Sharma said WhatsApp groups have been created for children in each section: “The group admin is the class teacher, who gives assignments as well as feedback.”

A senior official with the South MCD said, “More than 50% of parents do not have smartphones. Many of them are daily wagers, working as staff in hospitals, engaged in essential services like selling vegetables, as helpers or drivers of trucks and as sanitation workers.” The official also added that many daily wagers and workers, whose children were enrolled in the schools, have gone back to their villages amid the lockdown.

A teacher at an EDMC school also pointed to other problems: “While it is easy to give study material or guidance, all these cannot be checked properly on WhatsApp.” Another teacher said not every subject can be taught online, like Math and English. For now, online teaching involves giving assignments like drawing, writing an essay and simple math calculations.

Director (Education) of the North body Veditha Reddy said in cases where students do not own smartphones, they would be given worksheets at MCD schools: “Several parents come to these schools, now functioning as relief camps, for food and supplies. They can submit the worksheets then.”

Reddy said to make the exercise more interactive, teachers send audio messages to children highlighting improvement areas.

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