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Chalking a way out for students where online classes failed 

Kasturi Ray

BHUBANESWAR :  When Covid-19 forced life into the online mode, everything was offline for hundreds of village students in Odisha, most of whom never had an opportunity to even own a phone let alone use it for studies.

Completely let loose due to indefinite closure of schools, children were found whiling away time when young women brigade in these villages took it on themselves to continue teaching the kids, albeit in groups of 4 to 5. The purpose was to ensure, the pandemic doesn’t rob the children of their basic right to education.

Dileswari Dharua (21), a Plus Three second-year student of Balangir Women’s college was one of the brigade. She was in her village Phulijharan in Baidapali of Balangir when she saw children not having access to online mode of education and completely shut from studies. “It struck me that I can conduct a few remedial classes for such children so that they complete the curriculum on time,” says Dileswari, a student of History.   

Since the past few months, she has been devoting two hours every day to a group of 26 students from Class 1 to 5 in all subjects. Despite a bedridden brother, she and her mother do sundry works in their own small farmland and also in others’ lands to earn a living.  “The divide between the rich and poor is taking a toll on us, the tribals of untouched terrains. Untouched by any development,  we don’t have proper connectivity nor the ability to afford a phone. How do the children in such places look up to a bright future,” says Dileswari who wants to become a teacher and earn a salary for her family.

Another graduate, who has been teaching children in Jhimangia village of Kandhamal district, is Jyotsnamayee  Nayak.  Having done her bachelor’s in Education, she too is imparting basic education to 17 students. “I am happy these small kids are showing improvement after a little coaching. Without access to online classes, the students were not able to study. It gives me a chance to make a difference,” says Jyotsnamayee whose family’s poor financial condition did not allow her to pursue a PG degree. 

“I had a difficult time as my mother was the only member who earned by working as a labourer in  MGNREGA works. Now, that too has stopped,” she adds. Mira Seth (24) is a high school teacher. “I was disturbed with the trend where parents wanted to send their children for labour or wanted them to get married as schools were closed. I decided to start remedial classes,’’ says Mira who teaches at Balabasapur Nodal School of Hemgiri block in Sundargarh district.

With her school closed, she has been teaching 12 children since mid-August. The one thing common to all the women is their dedication to the work they are doing – teaching sans any return. All that they get is fulfillment. “If we are making a difference, that’s what matters,” they say.

Only 1.8% rural households in Odisha have access to computers and a mere 5.8 % have access to internet facility, as per the National Sample Survey Organisation 2018 report

Annual Status of Education Report-2018 reveals, only 50.3% of children enrolled in Class 5 can read a Class 2 level text. It means that 49.7 % children still need remedial classes to have a class-appropriate learning standard.

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