Classes under trees; lessons on WhatsApp, TV as schools go on in Madhya Pradesh

Classes under trees; lessons on WhatsApp, TV as schools go on in Madhya Pradesh
UNDER A neem in Ambdo village in Sehore district about 90 km from Bhopal, 25 children sat on a bright red tarpaulin sheet spread on the bottom on a recent Saturday, as 51-year-old grade school teacher Kamla Gaur hooked her telephone up to a loudspeaker – which crackled to life with ‘Ek chatur kauwe ki kahani’.
From a rope tied above the children’s heads, hung drawings of the chatur kauwa – the cunning crow. “These stories are my favourite,” said nine-year-old Deepika Korku, busily sketching the crow putting pebbles within the vase of water.
With 91.56 lakh government school students of Classes 1 to 12 exclude of classrooms by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Madhya Pradesh government has reformatted the curriculum for all subjects into hour-long audio and video clips that are shared on WhatsApp, and broadcast on All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan. The video links are designed and curated by a team at the Rajya Shiksha Kendra, the state’s Department of Education , and are sent in accordance with a schedule – thus, Mondays are for math lessons, Tuesdays for science, and Wednesdays for languages.
Every teacher has been asked to make a WhatsApp group of their students at the village level. The links are sent to the teachers at 10 am, and therefore the teachers share them with students on their WhatsApp group. The clips for older students of Classes 9-12 are aired on Doordarshan at 10 am; for younger children, there’s the state government’s Dakshata Unnayan program on AIR.
But in villages like Ambdo – with a complete 125 households of mostly Korku and Barela tribals – mobile phones, radio or a television receiver aren’t universally accessible.
Read| Climbing trees to access homework— online education during a remote village of Haryana
Fifteen-year-old Neha Mehra who wants to be an IAS officer at some point , said the only mobile reception has got to be shared among four siblings — that too only on days their father doesn’t need to leave of the village, taking the phone. Neha said she had heard of the classes on TV, but couldn’t find the channel. consistent with numbers provided by the government , 50,000 WhatsApp groups are created, connecting about 12 lakh students. But daily views of the links sent over the messaging platform don’t cross 6-7 lakh.
The numbers of these accessing the teachings on TV are lower. Santosh Dhanawde, a secondary school teacher in Narsullahganj block under which Ambdo falls, said many children don’t have a TV at home; also, power cuts are a drag . it’s during this situation that the classes just like the one under the neem became popular. The loudspeaker mounted on the thickest branch of the tree was purchased by the panchayat, an initiative taken entirely by the villagers, Dhanawde said.
“Now”, said grade school teacher Gaur, “the students have begun to enjoy the sessions such a lot that they often invite a story to be repeated. it’s due to such programmes that the tribal children are comfortable in Hindi.” In villages like Ambdo, teachers are encouraged to carry “mohalla” classes for college kids in groups of 10, headed by a volunteer identified as a “Shikhshadoot”. The volunteers have their own cell phones to point out students videos and clarify their doubts — however, one telephone among 10 children often means the screens are too small and therefore the lessons barely audible.
To solve the matter , Asaram Solanki, headmaster at Ambdo, tried to rearrange equipment like mics and portable Bluetooth speakers. And when that seemed too expensive, an innovative alternative was found with an old, rigged-up DVD player.
Lokesh Jatav, Commissioner of Rashtriya Shiksha Kendra, conceded that nothing could replace in-person education in class . However, there has been an increased effort from parents to permit their cell phones to be used and open up their homes and temples to carry these mohalla classes, he said.
Many villagers like Dayaram Kalme have given their cell phones not only to their own children but also to others within the neighbourhood. “Jis tarah se bachche padh rahe hain, ummeed hai ki kuchh ban jayenge. (The way the youngsters are studying gives me hope for them),” said Kalme, whose two children attend these mohalla classes a day .

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