Every morning, Shailen Tudu (12) sits by his house near a painted blackboard and solves the maths problems he is given using a chalk. His principal Sapan Kumar stands at a little distance to oversee his work, and issues instructions using a hand-held loudspeaker.
According to Kumar, 295 students from his upgraded middle school at Dumarthar village in Jharkhand’s Dumka district are being taught in this manner due to the pandemic. The school was forced to take this step as more than 80 per cent of its tribal students come from areas which have little to no mobile connectivity.
Like Dumarthar, the district administration has focused on 450 shadow zones – areas with low mobile connectivity – and is teaching 12,900 students. With social distancing, masks, loudspeakers, blackboards, and a few volunteers, teachers in various Dumka villages have ensured that their students’ studies do not suffer using these ‘mohalla classes’.
In Mahua village, Munna Bhandari helps with daily chores and assists other teachers. Bhandari, a B-Tech graduate from Jamshedpur, was forced to return to his village due to the lockdown. He said, “This pandemic gave me an opportunity to give back to the children of my village. It feels good to empower them.” Tapan Kumar Das, the principal of the local school, says that from Classes 3 to 8, teachers and volunteers teach them. “One group is divided into various sub-groups who are handled by these volunteers. They are of great help.”
Dumka DC Rajeshwari B said, “Walls of houses turn into blackboard in Dumarthar, Jarmundi as teachers take education to the doorstep of the children. Parents and teachers have come together to ensure that education remains accessible even during corona times…”
Dumka Superintendent of Education Masudi Tudi said that the idea came from a teacher, Shyam Kishore Singh Gandhi, who started teaching his students via loudspeaker in April. “During the pandemic, schools were shut down. Gandhi formed a team and started teaching his students in Bankathi block via loudspeakers. It got a good response. After I joined in August, we held a meeting with all stakeholders and the administration wanted to emulate the Gandhi model in the entire district.”
Tudi said that although the state government had started online class initiative called ‘DIGI-SAATH’, where the content is sent to the children through various WhatsApp group, the percolation was very low.
“In Dumka, we have 2,27,000 children enrolled in government schools. Of these, only 45,000 have access to online content daily and therefore there is a huge gap. With mohalla classes, we aim to reach students physically as much as we can. Various teachers have used their innovations to reach students. For the next one week, we plan to reach at least 10 mohallas per block..,” said Tudu.
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