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Thursday, May 19, 2022

When a student can’t go to school during pandemic and the ‘school comes’ to the student

A teacher with Beed Zilla Parishad’s school in the village of Kasarwadi in Parli taluka, Phutke (46), like lakhs of other teachers, had to switch to online mode after the state government once again closed schools in the wake of the latest wave of Covid-19 infections.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune |
January 20, 2022 5:56:59 pm
While teaching online, Phutke used Google forms for submissions and feedback, and realised that students were struggling with the lessons.

Chandhrashekhar Phutke’s daily routine since the last few months has been much more hectic than usual.

A teacher with Beed Zilla Parishad’s school in the village of Kasarwadi in Parli taluka, Phutke (46), like lakhs of other teachers, had to switch to online mode after the state government once again closed schools in the wake of the latest wave of Covid-19 infections. However, not satisfied with the progress made by students in online classes, Phutke now goes to his students’ homes, not only to check their homework but also to teach them.

While teaching online, Phutke used Google forms for submissions and feedback, and realised that students were struggling with the lessons.

“In rural areas, many students experience network problems. Usually, there is only one smartphone in the household, and the father takes it with him when he goes for work. So, we have to take classes in the evening, when the father comes back,” he said.

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When he saw his students falling behind due to online classes, Phutke, who teaches Marathi and English, decided to approach them individually. “The school was closed for students, but there was no ban on teachers or schools going to them. So, I started visiting students to guide them and to check their homework,” he said.

The small village school in Kasarwadi has 170 students and Phutke is responsible for teaching 80 students from Class 5 to 8. Phutke said he also helps students from other classes.

“Nothing can replace in-person classes and the interaction that takes place between students and teachers. While urban students can adopt to this, rural students face more difficulties,” he said.

For his own classes, Phutke uses Zoom or Google Meet to teach, but for checking homework and for follow-up lessons, he travels to the residences of his students throughout the day.

Usually, Phutke starts from his residence in Parli Vaijyanath at 9 am and reaches Kasarwadi by 9.30 am. After parking his bike at the village square, Phutke starts his home visits on foot. To his advantage, Kasarwadi is a small village where most houses are close to each other. “I divide the week between the lanes and on a single day, I try to visit at least 50 students,” he said.

At times, he sits at the open porch of a house and students from nearby houses come to get their homework checked. “By now, students know the routine, they know when and where to find me or where I will be,” he said.

While the endeavor takes hours of his time, Phukte said all his efforts were meant to prioritise his students. “I am not doing anything extraordinary… as a teacher, my students are my priority, so this is my way of connecting with them during the lockdown,” he said.

Aarti Gutte, a student of Class 8, said the daily visits by Phukte help her stay on course with her studies, and not fall behind. “As sir comes every day, we know we have to do our homework… that can’t be done online,” she said.

Even during the lockdown in the last wave, Phukte had gone out of his way to teach his students. Along with fellow teachers Mahesh Jadhav and Prachi Joshi, he had devised a Platform for Spoken English (PROSE) to help students improve their spoken English.

As he gets ready to start around round of student visits, Phukte has just one request to the political leadership of the state: “Start in-person classes in schools… our students need it.”

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