Carrying sheets of paper, 28-year-old Tuhina Bibi stands in a queue outside a classroom in Khosdelpur High Madrasah School in North 24 Parganas district with fellow parents, who who keep space between each other for social distancing. Tuhina is here to meet the schoolteacher and hand over answer scripts filled by her two sons, who study at the school.
Once she has done that, Tuhina will move to a second queue, to collect the foodgrains meant for students as part of the mid-day meal scheme. On Monday, the school organised distribution of foodgrains for August.
In a bid to reach out to students who have no access to the Internet or smartphones during the Covid-19 pandemic, the West Bengal Madrasah Board has asked its affiliate schools to prepare printed assignments every month, which the parents take home when they visit the schools to collect the mid-day meal benefits. To avoid crowding, students are not being called.
“The idea is to provide continuity to their education. In every class, subject-wise question papers were set. This has not been done to mark them based on their answers, but to allow students to complete the syllabus. So far, the response from parents has been most satisfying,” said Abdur Rouf Dafadar, the headmaster of the Khosdelpur High Madrasah School since February 2010.
Set up in 1932, the school from classes 1 to 12 has 600 students, both boys and girls, including a small percentage who are non-Muslims.
Yakub Mollah, who teaches mathematics at the school, said they first created WhatsApp groups to share study materials with students. “Later we found that not every student has access to the Internet as a large number come from challenging economic backgrounds. The school authorities then asked us to prepare question papers in the form of assignments to be distributed among parents. We have distributed assignments thrice so far.”
Sangeeta Majumdar, who is a physical science teacher at the school, said when the schools shut due to the lockdown imposed in late March, only the first-term syllabus (from January to March) had been completed. “So we divided the second-term syllabus (April to June) into three sets and prepared three separate question papers. This will ensure that students can study the second-term syllabus at home,” Majumdar said.
While Tuhina’s elder son Bengal madrasas finish term with parents’ help, send work home Sheikh Mujnabi is in Class 5, Sheikh Rizwan is in Class 1. They live 1 km from the school, in Dargatala. Tuhina’s husband Sheikh Jackie has no income these days, with the meat shop he runs in Barasat shut due to the area being declared a containment zone.
Tuhina said the new arrangement ensures her sons continue with their studies as well as helps her keep track of them. Whenever she can, she teaches them from their textbooks. “My sons are beginning to understand that one cannot stop studying if the school is shut,” Tuhina smiled.
Tanjila Bibi, 36, said her daughter Yasmina Khatun, who is in Class 7, had been missing school and rushed through her assignments within days. “Now she is waiting for the fourth set of question papers.”
With no certainty on schools opening any time soon, the next set may be distributed in September.
West Bengal Madrasah Board President Sheikh Abu Taher Kamruddin said, “We are ensuring that no student is left out. This offline measure will help students who have no access to the Internet.” Besides, schools are sharing study materials and videos with students who have Internet connectivity or smartphones.
“Parents have been asked to ensure that students study these notes properly. Their involvement is very crucial. They must strictly monitor their children while they do the homework,” he added.
West Bengal has 615 state government-aided and 236 un-aided madrasa schools, with over 6.5 lakh students.
As part of the mid-day meal scheme, students get 2 kg rice, 1 kg potato, 1 kg chickpeas and 1 soap bar each. They have received these five times since the lockdown began.
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