HSC passouts run special 'Covid schools' for younger tribal students
Just 70 km from Mumbai, online learning is a distant, impossible dream. So, tribal students who have finished college or HSC have turned 'teachers', while community pitches in with 'mid-day snacks'
Even amidst the pandemic, a community-based organisation from Thane district's Murbad tehsil is ensuring that tribal students don't miss out on studies. Shramik Mukti Sanghatana has come up with a unique concept of 'COVID schools' where educated youngsters from villages teach students from Std I to VI. The organisation and volunteers also distribute snacks to students, as mid-day meals have stopped in the lockdown. Over the past two weeks, the number of such schools in Murbad has gone up to 10, with 30-34 students in each.
In order to ensure that the tribal kids do not miss out on their basic primary education, the organisation had recently written an email to the chief minister and education minister, suggesting ways of conducting regular schooling in tribal areas. However, there has been no response in the matter till date. The lockdown has badly affected the tribals, as most of them are without jobs. The worst is that, as the schools are not functioning, the students don't get their mid-day meals.
Some of the younger children listen in rapt attention in their classroom
Confirming the email, Indavi Tulpule, member of Shramik Mukti Sanghatana, said, "When we heard about the government directions on conducting online classes in urban areas, we started enquiring about the zilla parishad schools in tribal areas, where teachers have not been coming for the past five months. At some places, the teachers visited the schools only to distribute Balbharati books, but then they never returned."
Tulpule added, "Usually during monsoon, children in tribal villages spend more time in schools as their parents work in fields. But for the past five months, the kids have been playing all day and many of them have even forgotten the basics of reading and writing. As their parents are uneducated, they cannot assist them in learning at home. Hence, they rely on schools. Teachers usually come from places that are at distances of 4-5 km from the schools. Though the rule is that primary school teachers should stay within two km but the ground reality is something else."
A student draws a maths diagram on the board
"Our concern is that as online education is not possible in tribal areas, we are creating a sense of inferiority complex in the minds of the rural children. They are being deprived of their basic education, which indirectly will hamper their growth," she added.
However, as there was no response to the email sent to the government, the organisation decided to start the 'COVID schools'. It encouraged HSC pass-outs and graduates from the villages to teach students from Std I to VI. The firm provides the youngsters with notebooks and stationary, while they conduct the classes. As a token of appreciation for their efforts, the organisation plans to pay a monthly fee of `1,000 to those teaching the kids. And as midday meals cannot be provided, the students are given snacks, which otherwise also encourages them to attend the classes.
Tulpule further said, "The students are encouraged to maintain hygiene and social distancing, but as an ordinary facemask costs around `20, it is unaffordable for them." Hence, she has managed to get a tailor, who agreed to stitch 200 masks, at `5 each. She said the masks would soon be distributed among the students.
'Kids enjoying classes'
Ganpat Jaitughda, 26, who runs one such school in Mohawadi tribal village, 30 kilometers from Murbad tehsil, has done his BA/DED, but has been unemployed for the past couple of years. He currently teaches 34 students at his village COVID school. Speaking to mid-day, he said, "I do not go by what's there in textbooks, as the students have almost forgotten the basics. I take classes for students of Std I to III and IV to VI in two separate classrooms, along with another boy from our village."
He added, "The situation is grim, and the entire population of the village is at home without any jobs. We are happy that Tulpule madam guided us to set up the school, and students are enjoying the classes as well. Daily I conduct classes from 9 am to 11.30 am, during which I teach the alphabet, maths, drawing, singing and even physical activities."
Twenty-six-year-old Ganpat Jaitughda teaches about 34 students at his Mohawadi village COVID school
Meanwhile, even after repeated attempts to contact Murbad tehsildar Amol Kadam and State Education Minister, Varsha Gaikwad, they remained unavailable.
Suggestions to govt
The email sent to the government, according to Tulpule, mentions some suggestions Shramik Mukti Sanghatana had put forward for conducting schools in the tribal hamlets.
- The zilla parishad should ask teachers to teach students in their respective villages, so that they don't miss out on their studies
- Educated youngsters, who do not have jobs due to the lockdown, can be requested to teach students of Std I to VI, and they can be paid from the funds allocated for teachers' salaries
- The government should provide notebooks and workbooks to students
- At least once a month there needs to be some interaction between the ZP teachers and the parents of the tribal kids
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