AS THE new academic session began for government schools in Punjab on April 1, the education department on Thursday released online study material so students can study from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
From video content on YouTube to e-books (chapters for April syllabus) on Google drive and mobile application iScuela Learn, the study material has been uploaded along with syllabus and weekly study routines for classes I to XII.
Following the coronavirus outbreak and imposition of curfew in Punjab, schools are closed indefinitely till further orders. But the major issue that remains at hand for teachers in state government schools is to connect with children from migrant families via online platforms, because such children do not have access to smartphones or YouTube or other online platforms on which content has been uploaded.
Hence, teachers say e-learning for migrant children is easier said than done.
Majority of children studying in government schools across the state are from migrant families and their parents work as farm or construction labourers or daily wagers. They have either moved back to their native places or will now be occupied in wheat harvesting season. With limited or no access to gadgets, smartphones or even computers, teachers say they cannot force children from migrant families to start reading chapters or e-books on Google drive, YouTube or any mobile app.
Baljinder Singh Dhaliwal, a government teacher from Moga and state secretary, Master Cadre Union, said,
“All these e-learning platforms are very good for children who are from technologically-friendly backgrounds but one should not forget that in government schools of Punjab, majority of our students are from migrant and financially weaker families. These days, due to the lockdown, they are more worried about arranging two meals a day. They have either moved back to their native villages or will now be occupied in wheat harvesting. Children too help their parents in wheat harvesting. For children who can access these e-learning platforms, it is fine but otherwise teachers cannot force migrant children to arrange access to e-learning platforms. It is not feasible or practical for them.”
He added, “Teachers have also been ordered to conduct admissions via phone and on WhatsApp. How is that practical? How can you convince parents to admit their child in a government school on phone without visiting them? Maybe it is possible in cities but not in villages.”
Sandeep Nagar, deputy director, Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Punjab education department, said, “We have uploaded online content which is easily accessible for teachers and students. EDUSAT lectures, syllabus and e-books for all classes from I to XII are now on Google drive, whose link has been circulated to all school heads. We are trying to think of other ways to connect with other children who do not have access to e-learning platforms.”
On YouTube, content has been uploaded on the account ‘Edusat Punjab’ while on mobile app iScuela Learn, it can be accessed by entering a code sent to teachers. A video on how to use this app is also uploaded on YouTube.
Class 10, 12 pending exams preparation via ‘social media or phone calls’
Meanwhile, another set of orders received by school principals and headmasters/headmistresses has directed then to ‘be in touch’ with class X and XII students who have some of their board exams pending. School heads should divide the number of children among teachers for mentoring and counselling, say the orders.
Teachers have also been told to talk to students individually on phone and ask them about their daily routine and preparation for pending exams so that ‘students take studies seriously’ and ‘get confidence’. Teachers have also been told to decide daily chapters for revision and prepare question banks for students. “This needs to be managed through social media or phone calls,” say the orders, adding that “this time of crisis should be treated as preparatory leave for students”.
The orders add that to ‘achieve Mission Shatpratishat’, efforts should go on even amid coronavirus and lockdown. “School heads should speak to at least 10 per cent students of board classes on a daily basis and try to take feedback…,” say the orders, adding that in no case should teachers move out of their houses.
Meanwhile at PAU…
At Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Ludhiana, the major crisis has been the lost connect with farmers as the Kisan Mela — which helped farmers prepare for the upcoming kharif season — had to be cancelled. While it was initially decided that the varsity seed shop at gate number 1 would be open, it too remains shut and farmers cannot buy seeds for paddy sowing.
Students were about to take their mid-term exams when curfew was ordered and thus they remain pending. However, crops grown on campus for research and experiment purpose are being taken care of with special permission from the vice-chancellor. Teachers are also in touch with students for their research thesis and other queries via mail and WhatsApp. “Social distancing is being maintained in campus. Vehicles are not allowed and just gates 4 and 8 are open for entry for those who have curfew passes. We are interacting with farmers via e-magazine Kheti Sandesh being sent via WhatsApp every week. Students in hostels have left for homes except a few international students. Essential works such as releasing salaries of daily paid laborers and taking care of research fields are being done with V-C’s permission,” said Jagdish Kaur, PAU spokesperson.
“MTE exams were to begin when curfew was announced so students are hanging midway,” she added.
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