‘Mela, IPL, Rallies Can Be Held… Why Not Exams?’

Bengaluru-based Class 12 student Navya Deepesh Govil feels disappointed at the postponing of Class XII examinations and she lists out hers reasons for it

I am a student of Class 12 currently preparing for Board exams and other competitive exams. The central government has cancelled Class 10 Board exams and postponed Class 12 exams due to the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases across India. As a student, I am not happy with the decision having prepared so hard for the whole year.

Just look at the prejudiced decision of our government. Bars, restaurants, cinema halls and other public places are all open with 50% capacity. The political leaders are holding multiple rallies in election states. Thousands of people are gathering in the Kumbh Mela, refusing to get tested or wear face-masks or follow social distancing; they are all one over another. The Indian Premier League matches are being held.

ALSO READ: ‘Happy To Be Back In School After Long Wait’

I want to ask my leaders if Mela, public meetings and cricket matches can be held, then why school exams can’t be conducted with due precautionary measures in place! Clearly, election speeches, sport events and mass festivals are more important for this government than education. If it were not so, we would be taking our exams as scheduled, with heavier restrictions on public gatherings, and strict safeguards at examination halls. No?

Considering the severity of the situation, it is fair enough for many students and parents to feel at risk of the coronavirus. However, I feel the Board exams should not have been postponed and if at all the situation worsens, the Central Board should either cancel it for good or hold them online.

I understand that holding the exams online would not be the best option considering the cheating that could take place (which would be unfair to students who have genuinely prepared for these exams) and also due to the level of internet access in our country.

ALSO READ: Online Learning Remains A Distant Dream

But the decision to postpone these exams will only leave us hanging and increase anxiety among young students about their future. Postponing Board exams also means putting off other competitive exams that are scheduled to be held in the month of June. And for how long can the whole academic year be pushed down again and again?

We can have each school hold the exams for their students on their campus. That way for one exam there wouldn’t be more than 30-40 students appearing, and can be spread across different classrooms. As a CBSE official recently said that examination centres for board exams 2021 have been increased by 40% to 50%. They might as well hold them in all schools as we did for our board practical exams and viva. With careful planning, we can even start vaccination for students at the earliest. At the examination hall, social distancing, masks and shields can be made be mandatory.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘It Was A Long Wait; Happy To Be Back In School’

Agamjot Singh, a Class 8 student of Ekam Public School in Mehatpur, Punjab, says he is happy to be back in a normal classroom as it allows him to interact with his friends and teachers in person

I am a student of Ekam Public School studying in Class 8. For nearly a year since the lockdown was announced in March 2020, our schools remained closed. Even though students from Class 9 to 12 were allowed to attend regular classes on school premises for the past one month, the rest of us were attending online classes.

So I am very happy and excited to be re-joining school. In fact I was eagerly waiting for the school to reopen. Not only do we learn better in the school environment, the constant interaction with friends keeps us happy. While attending online classes, the level of interaction wasn’t the same. Our teachers also seem very happy to have us back.

My class has a total strength of 43 students but on the first day of reopening, only 22 students, i.e. about half the students were present. The school had sent out a directive that any student feeling even slightly unwell should not attend school.

ALSO READ: ‘Online Classes Drain The Parents’

However, there were restrictions and safety protocol for the students who were attending school. We weren’t allowed to go to the cafeteria (it was closed) or even use the playground. The school authorities took great care to sanitize the premises regularly. Even though our temperature-screening were not done on entering school, a strict regime was followed to ensure that everyone was wearing masks and sanitizing their hands regularly. The washrooms were also very clean.

Singh is well aware of Covid-19 safety protocols

I take a school bus to reach school and it was also in a spick and span condition. And everyone took care and personal responsibility to keep it clean.

I wasn’t scared at all to be attending school and neither were my parents. And now that the vaccination process is about to start, whatever little fear we might have had has also vanished. In fact, my father himself had contracted coronavirus a few months ago and now we are very aware of the symptoms, the correct steps and precautions to take.

Even though we children love screen time and are quite technically aware and adept at handling gadgets and newer apps, yet I believe nothing can replace the charm and ease of normal classroom learning. We are young so it doesn’t affect our eyes if they are glued to the screen or have earphones plugged in for long hours, but with increased study load as we advance to senior classes, book learning is better for our health.

‘Online Classes Completely Drain The Parents’

Roma Aggarwal, 37, says online schooling is tiresome for parents who have to juggle among domestic chores, office work and children’s assignments. She prays for the pandemic to end and schools to reopen

Online classes aren’t really my cup of tea. I love the idea of children being formally educated inside the school premises with real-time interactions between teachers and students as well as among themselves. Education is not only about the stuff we are taught, it is also about the social skills we learn, how we understand non-verbal cues from other people and how we learn to carve our own space in the sea of people. But it is what it is!

The pandemic hasn’t relented for so many months now and I wonder when my two daughters will be able to go back to school. My younger daughter, aged three, was supposed to start school formally this year, but then things changed drastically. My elder daughter is in Class IV and she misses her school a lot.

I have had to change and update gadgets continuously to enhance the quality of the online interaction. As an urban family, we have access to smartphones, laptop etc. which we share on priority basis, and still online classes aren’t an easy navigation. So, I wonder about those families who may have to share gadgets, like one phone between two siblings.

ALSO READ: ‘Online Classes, PUBG, Web Series… Lockdown Is Fun’

It is difficult for the young children to make such huge changes in lifestyle. My elder one generally oscillates between her iPad and her laptop for her studies, but there are days when she complains of sore eyes and mild headaches because of the intense focus she has to keep on the electronic mediums. So I have also now started connecting the laptop (net book) to the TV. And since my younger one accesses her classes on my phone, it means I neither get the TV, nor the phone to unwind after a hard day’s work.

Whatever free time I get is spent in helping my elder daughter with her assignments. I am a housewife but there is so much online involvement with my elder daughter that I feel like I have joined a fully functioning office. We as parents have to help our kids with conducting their lab experiments, then with their homework across subjects and multiple assignments. Plus there are also their various online tests.

Then there are video and photo uploads to be done. My elder daughter starts her classes around 8.20 am and one class goes on for 40 minutes. And I have to be alert along with her. My younger one’s classes start much later and she has also been complaining about her eyes watering during the classes. Since ages we have told kids to use the screen less or sit far away from the screen so that it doesn’t impact their eyes. But now the screens have become unavoidable. Continuous and long use of ear phones might also hamper the children’s sensitive ears, so I don’t allow them to use earphones for online classes.

WATCH: ‘Online Classes Are Only A Temporary Option’

My house is right now divided into water-tight zones. One room has been taken up by my husband, where he dedicatedly does his work as an IT Professional. Another room has been assigned to my daughter in which she can attend her classes undisturbed by any outside sound or noise. My younger daughter and I have taken over the living room. She gets easily restless during the classes and I have to then help her soothe.

I sincerely hope the schools open soon and we go back to the pre-pandemic world. Till now there are no updates as to when schools would open in Chennai. Since there is not much physical activity during online classes, the kids don’t expend much energy and they eat fewer times saying they don’t feel hungry and the portions have also been getting smaller. In this pandemic they can’t even go out for physical activities, which is not good for their health.

Watch – ‘No Smartphone, No Classes, Kids Play All Day’

LokMarg brings you a ground report from rural India, where in the absence of smartphones and computers, school children are unable to study amid Covid-19.

Our reporter Praveen Sharma visits rural households in Uttar Pradesh to find that a majority of students are unable to take advantage of online classes. Parents say they can ill-afford expensive phones or data. Result is most school children now idle away their time playing or running errands.

School teachers list out state government measures for distance learning as schools are yet to reopen. But poor households are unable to take their benefit. They are only waiting for the schools to reopen. Watch:

‘Class 10 & 12 Students Staring At Uncertain Future’

Swapnil Pal, who gave Class 10 board exams in March, is anxious about his future but lauds the role of teachers for continuing to take (online) classes. Pal says these teachers are also Corona warriors

I just gave my Class 10 Boards and what a year it has been. Everyone except Class 10 and Class 12 students have their regular online classes going on and yet the students of these two classes are staring at an uncertain future. Our education is on hold for the time being. The only semblance of certainty and structure in our education right now comes from the online Engineering coaching classes conducted by an institute called Scholar’s Den.

Even though we have adapted to online classes now, there’s a certain feeling of learning in classroom. One learns while having fun with friends. The engineering entrance syllabus is quite a handful and friends help one break the monotony. Also, there is a sense of camaraderie. Now we are all studying alone in our homes.

ALSO READ: ‘Anxiety In Students, But Online Mischiefs Continue’

We are around 60 students in one class and classes are conducted through Zoom. Every day around 1.5 GB data gets used to attend the classes and the rest for assignments. Only a little data is left if one wants to play games or watch videos. Our classes are conducted between 3 pm to 8 pm and in the mornings we are supposed to complete our assignments given in these classes.

The teachers are also getting used to new ways of teaching. Many of them are still themselves learning about handling technology perfectly. A few days ago our one and half hours Inorganic Chemistry class got cancelled because of a technical glitch. One didn’t when the glitch would be solved so we didn’t really know what to do. Then other problems occur too, like user id and password not matching when tests are about to happen. I was locked out of a test recently because it happened with me. I wish I had been able to take that test, but it is ok, one needs to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances and glitches in these times.

ALSO READ: ‘Few Smartphones, So We Used SMS, Voice Data’

The group feeling isn’t there, that we are all preparing for these exams together, but we make up for it by sometimes calling each other when we get time between classes and assignments. I divide my time between topics wisely and make sure to ask questions if we don’t understand anything. We have something known as DCC (Doubt Clearing Classes) everyday in breaks between online classes and we are encouraged to clarify the minutest of our doubts before moving on to the next chapter or topic. That’s something that has helped us students a lot. While studying on my own also I ask myself if I have really understood the topic and can explain it to someone else easily.

I don’t know when schools will reopen and we will be able to get admissions in Class 11, but I am sure of one thing that our education won’t stop. There are so many people working to set things straight, especially we see news of so many teachers working dedicatedly. Teachers can also be called corona warriors. They are fighting to keep ignorance at bay and are fighting to keep hope in the future alive.

‘Anxiety In Students, But Online Mischiefs Continue’

Parth Kamra, a Class 12 student in Delhi, says even though there is worry among students about their term, Coronavirus hasn’t been able to stop classroom mischiefs

Currently, I am in Class 12 studying Commerce and our batch is right in the middle of major confusion and uncertainty caused by Coronavirus. There is much anxiety over the fate of our term amid the reopening of schools. Yet, neither our education nor our mischief has stopped. Be the classroom real or virtual, children always find ways to pull a trick or two and keep the class in high spirits.

Our generation is so adept at technology that we find solutions to almost anything. Our teachers recognise this. They say: “Beta, we might not be as good as you when it comes to technology but we are getting there, slowly and steadily. Every day, we are reading and learning more about online classes.”

Meanwhile, until the teachers manage to keep up the pace with students when it comes to technology, we hear so many funny stories all around. One of my classmates told me how she recently managed to attend the classes of another school using their password for Zoom (a web meeting zone). Once inside the (virtual) classroom, she had a little fun with the female teacher conducting the class, by asking her a series of silly questions and taking her by surprise. Before the lady teacher could realise the reality, my friend left the class. Poof!

ALSO READ: ‘We Used Voice Data For e-Classes’

Right after the first lockdown was announced in March, our teachers used to teach us using the Google Classroom app and we simply used to take notes. Later, we shifted to classes on Zoom but it took at least four days to get things right. The students were quicker to find their way around Zoom. A few of us would simply split their screen and use social media on one side while the teacher would be teaching.

Some would simply put the teacher on mute or would just log in their attendance and go away. Some would keep changing their usernames so that the teacher wouldn’t know who is who. So one day the teacher would find that none other than “Narendra Modi” was attending her classes while on other days there would be Katrina Kaif in the classroom.

ALSO READ: ‘Online Classes, Pubg… Lockdown Is Cool’

In the last case, the teacher figured out and shifted the classes to Google Meet (another web meeting application). Her, one cannot just make up any username and one can login only by using valid email IDs.

However, our tuition classes still run on Zoom, and students are having fun there. The teacher there too has disabled chats and one can send messages only to the teacher for getting one’s queries cleared.

While most of us are having fun, we haven’t lost touch with the real situation ahead of us. We hope our schools reopen soon after the summer vacations end. Interacting in real life is always way more interesting and fun than in the online world.

‘Few Smartphones, So We Used Voice Data For e-Class’

Anuj Agarwal, the principal of a government inter college in Uttar Pradesh, says not all his students had smartphones at home. So, he devised new ways to conduct e-classes

I have been in the teaching profession for nearly 12 years now and I wish to take education to the outermost fringes of society. I teach Social Sciences and English, and I want to impart knowledge to anyone who is curious and dedicated. However, when the Coronavirus struck and schools, colleges were shut down, it acted as a sudden dampener to my purpose.

Our government college, at Manpur in Moradabad, was established recently as the first inter college in the area. We were in the middle of fine-tuning paraphernalia when the virus outbreak happened. Since it was such an unprecedented crisis, it took us some time to figure things out.

Most of our students come from underprivileged background who either do not have smartphones or cannot buy expensive data plans. Nor could we allow them to huddle around a single smartphone for classes because of social distancing norms. We therefore realised we needed to innovate to be able to continue teaching them via distance learning methods.

ALSO READ: ‘Teaching My Daughter In Lockdown’

You will be surprised with what solutions small-town India can come up with to overcome hurdles. Video calls hog data. So we decided to break down school curriculum chapters into smaller topics, and then converted them into voice data.

Next, we disseminated the same chapters via various mediums. To explain some subjects, we made videos on the topic and put them up on public platform like YouTube. We ensured these videos were of short-duration. Those who had access to a basic smartphone and a basic data plan, could opt for the video format.

For those who could not access videos on their phone, we made small audio clips of a few minutes each. These audio clips were sent through both WhatsApp and as normal voice recordings. We also used standard SMS services to send written material. This didn’t require any internet connection or downloading.

Plus, we told our students that we were available on call to clarify any doubt they might have on a particular topic. It’s ok if a student can’t see us, at least they can hear us and learn. So basically we prepared the same knowledge into different formats.

Agarwal believes teachers also learn from students.

What prepared me for this was the fact that I had been a part of both Skill India and Digital India programmes of the government. Thus, I understood the technical aspects of e-learning.

ALSO READ: ‘Online Classes, Pubg And Web Series…’

Our students have classes from 8 am to 2 pm. We have around 60 students in our college and seven-eight teachers, and we keep brainstorming about how we can make learning more accessible. Since I serve as both the Principal as well as the Social Sciences teacher, I ensure that the children can come up to me regarding any query they have about the subject. I have kept some time aside to answer their queries related to Coronavirus or any other important social issues. Many a time students surprise me with their ideas. Some of them who have access to smart phones at times send us some interesting links and we learn from them.

Thankfully the electricity situation in UP has improved so the students face no problem in keeping their phones charged for classes.

A lot of people are currently praising the Kerala government’s idea of taking education to children who don’t have access to internet through television, but very few know that the HRD ministry had already taken this initiative like SWAYAM Prabha.

For many years (2008-2014), I was involved in teaching children of manual scavengers. Teaching is a deeply fulfilling task and Coronavirus has taught us the importance of being well-informed and adaptive in the face of uncertainty.

‘Teaching My Kid In Lockdown, I Rediscovered Many Subjects’

Col Vishal Ahlawat of Delhi Cantt says lockdown provided him ample time to be with family. Besides, he brushed up various subjects while teaching his eight-year-old daughter

The lockdown due to Coronavirus may be difficult in certain aspects, but in some it’s a blessing in disguise. Post-lockdown I have been able to spend a lot of time with my daughter Parnika (8), who is in Class 4. Before lockdown she used to attend tuition classes as well, but now they have been called off. We both enjoy our time together a lot, even if most of the times it is about her studies. I love seeing how confident, curious and yet open-minded my daughter is to learn new things and through newer mediums.

She has her online school classes four days a week. Most of the days her classes get over around 12.30 pm and after a break, she and I sit together to help her revise. It is actually more a revision for me and I am re-brushing my skills in various subjects.

ALSO READ: ‘My Children Turned Into Prospective Chefs’

I am mesmerised by how wonderful English grammar is. The generation that we belong to, our education system didn’t really encourage understanding a subject but rote learning. So back then we might have memorised a lot of grammar, but now I am truly beginning to see its beauty. I love it how my daughter doesn’t mind asking the smallest of questions until she understands a topic in its totality. She is teaching me rather to be able to ask questions without hesitating.

Col Ahlawat says his daughter Parnika is open to learning through new mediums.

I am also loving teaching her Maths and Life Sciences as well. When we were in school, our Maths teacher was quite old and would take a lot of time to reach the classroom from the staff room. She had given instructions to us to keep reciting the multiplication tables for as long as she took to reach the classroom.

Such memories keep coming back when my daughter talks about her school. On one hand she says she misses interacting physically with her friends, but on the other hand she loves sleeping till late now that she doesn’t have to go to school.

ALSO READ: ‘Lockdown Hasn’t Affected A Millennial’s Life’

However, it is while teaching her Life Sciences subject that I have gone a step ahead of rebrushing my skills and have learnt many new things. Sometimes I do a double take at how deeply they are being taught about topics like: How does the Universe work? And then I am like should children so young be taught such deep things at such a young age? But it is upon the schools to decide on this. I as a grown up am enjoying reading my daughter’s Life Sciences book for right now.

During the first few days of my daughter’s online classes, even the teachers took some time to get adjusted to technology for everyday use at such a large scale. As a parent I also got to upgrade my technological skills. There are pros and cons of both classroom as well as online learning, but for right now I am enjoying the wonderful time I am getting to spend with my daughter. We laugh a lot together and learning seems to be such a fun experience. It’s like I have gone back to school again, I feel such a sense of freshness.