Updated: March 15, 2021 2:20:50 pm
The 12-year-old wakes up in the morning and types in “present mam” into her science class WhatsApp group. Her class begins at 11.30 am but the “present mam” messages begin trickling in at 8 am itself.
When it is time for class, their teacher sends across a worksheet on ‘Light, Shadows and Reflections’ on the group.
Soon after, the teacher sends a six-and-a-half-minute long video from a YouTube channel called Organised Knowledge, which is a breakdown of that specific worksheet. For instance, the worksheet begins with the definition of a mirror. In the video, a teacher gives short explanations of concepts in the definition such as ‘lateral inversion’ with quick hand-drawn diagrams on the screen. In the worksheet, the definition is followed by the question “Name the places where you have seen mirror and write the uses”. The video goes on to give them the answers, “1. We use mirror to see our face 2. Car wing mirrors to view vehicles at behind and side 3. In microscopes as reflecting plates”. The worksheet has four such questions.
The teacher sends a few WhatsApp voice messages with instructions to students on submissions. Some students sent photos of answers to a previous worksheet which they wrote in their notebooks. And so ended one of the 12-year-old’s two classes of the day. She has the rest of the day to complete the worksheets from both her classes.
She has a time-table for the entire week: Mondays and Tuesdays are for social studies and Sanskrit, Wednesdays and Thursdays are for English and maths, and Fridays and Saturdays are for Hindi and science. She has separate class WhatsApp groups for each subject with the respective subject teachers.
A student of a Delhi government school in Garhi, East of Kailash, this is how almost all of class VI has been for her. Her younger sister, aged 10, is a class V student in an MCD school, and the two share a smartphone between them.
Before the lockdown, the family did not own a smartphone. The girls’ father is a salwar suit tailor in Lajpat Nagar and the family only bought a smartphone when they returned to their village in Uttar Pradesh in June during the lockdown.
“My eldest daughter’s teacher had called me to encourage us to get her a smartphone so she can continue with her studies, so we got her one. My husband and I didn’t know how to use it but both of them have become masters at it,” said their mother.
The 10-year-old does not have to mark her presence, and, unlike her elder sister, she has only one class WhatsApp group as she has only one teacher for all subjects.
She sits down with the phone in the evening, after 8 pm. Her teacher has sent a video from a YouTube channel called ‘Learner Bee’ where a teacher explains a poem called ‘Malu Bhalu’ from their English textbook. It also includes a discussion on the questions in the textbook.
She has also received a worksheet with exercises based on the poem, such as word meanings. Along with the worksheets she receives every day, she also gets the answers to all the questions in them. Like her sister, she too has to note down the answers to the worksheets in her notebook, take photos and send these to her teacher.
“My ma’am is very good. If I don’t understand something, I can message her in a private chat and tell her. She sends me messages explaining those parts to me,” she said.
The girls started going to a private tuition class for one and half hours a day since October. “When they started going, there were very few students there with proper social distancing. There were many coronavirus cases in Delhi then, but we felt it was important. They were not going to school but they needed a teacher to be present and explain things to them. Now there are more, almost 20 kids in the class,” their mother said.
The sisters say they miss their school and teachers but are confident. “I like studying and I feel like I’m able to understand my lessons. We received our textbooks so I read those myself sometimes… Most of my friends from school live near me so I keep meeting them. But I miss my teachers and I miss the playground,” said the 12-year-old.
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