The extra mile for online learning

The story of how few teachers, PTA members and local leaders came together to facilitate online classes for the tribal students of Munderi Government High school, Malappuram

Published: 05th June 2021 07:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th June 2021 07:00 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: The second wave of Covid has brought about yet another year of virtual learning. Though most educational institutions in the state have chalked out better plans this year to carry out online classes, tribal students in the state are still at the end of the line, unable to mobilise resources to participate. Most tribal homes don’t have electricity, phones or internet and cable connectivity. 

But, the good samaritans at Munderi Government High School weren’t ready to let their 190 tribal students go without learning this year. So, the teachers and Parents Teachers Association (PTA) came together to set up eight online centres at tribal colonies. 

“Munderi school has Classes from I to X. The tribal students reside in colonies far away, and most of them are hard to reach. Some homes have mobile phones, but the connectivity is very poor. Many homes don’t have gadgets or electricity. Online classes being the only option, we had to arrange a facility for the tribal kids within our limitations. So, we set up online study centres exclusively for them,” says Anto Suja, Headmistress of Munderi School, who spearheaded the initiative along with PTA president K S Rafeeq.

Online study centres
The school, situated in Pothukal panchayat, has set up online study centres in Narangapoyil, Appankappu, Thandankallu, Iruttukuthy, Vaniyampuzha, Tharippappotty, and Velumbiyampadam colonies. “In Appankappu colony, classes happen inside an auditorium. Since most colonies lack functional buildings, we have set up temporary sheds. The students, especially from Thandankallu and Iruttukuthy colonies, attend classes inside such temporary structures,” says Anto Suja. Flash rains have dilapidated the sheds.

But the PTA members and teachers are in the process of revamping them with the support of local political leaders. Solar panels were installed to ensure uninterrupted power supply in a few areas. 
After the management wrote to MLA PV Anvar and other voluntary organizations, few television sets were donated to the study centres. Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP) helped them avail DTH connection. PTA members and teachers raised funds to recharge it. 

Though better infrastructure provided some respite, monitoring the kids was still an issue. To get to most colonies, one has to cross the Chaliyar river. Two teachers and a local volunteer who knows the area well started attending the study centres to keep a tab on the kids. “The route to several colonies is harsh. Sometimes we have to face strong currents in the river and wild animals,” adds Suja. When teachers fail to reach the colonies, ITDP assigns monitoring duty to local staff members. “With the rise in Covid cases, teachers limited their travel to the colonies to keep themselves and the members of the colonies safe from the virus,” says Suja. 

This academic year, admissions have shot up too. The schools run with 22 permanent teachers and 10 temporary staff members to handle the newcomers. “For a very long time, the school didn’t have enough teachers. A few teachers took up the empty slots recently, hoping to earn daily wages once the school reopens. Without physical classes, we are low on funds too. For now, we can only afford to pay Rs 1,000 Rs monthly to temporary teachers, which is too little. Though we wrote to authorities many times, we didn’t get any responses,” explains Suja.


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