Whatsapp has become the new mode of learning for students of government-run schools in Visakhapatnam

WhatsApp classes have helped the teachers in keeping students engaged and in school   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

Every morning Sourabh Gurume waits for a message from his teacher. At 11 am, his class teacher Sreevidya posts a list of homework for the day in their class WhatsApp group which the students have to finish by the end of the day and upload a picture. This has been his only sense of schooling in the past three months.

“I miss going to school and being with my friends. Initially, the lockdown was fun since we got to stay at home all the time but now I am bored. I love the homework that the teacher assigns us as it gives me chance discuss school topics with my best friend,” says Sourabh, a student of class four at GVMC Waltair II School.

Lakshmi Gurume, Sourabh’s mother believes that these lessons are important as they keep the child in touch with his studies. “Two or three months is a long time to be away from studies. So this homework passed on through WhatsApp is a great idea as they help the child to revise whatever they have learnt till date. It does not require students to sit in front of a screen for a long time. They just check the questions provided by the teacher and solve them in their notebooks,” says Lakshmi.

The government-run schools in Visakhapatnam have been closed since March due to the lockdown. Video calls and Zoom classrooms are not possible for these students as most of them come from humble backgrounds, so the teachers are reaching out to the students through phone calls and WhatsApp groups.

An aerial view of Waltair II Municipal School in Visakhapatnam

An aerial view of Waltair II Municipal School in Visakhapatnam   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

“These children belong to fishing communities and families that rely on daily wages; not many of them have the facilities to attend Zoom classes. So teachers from our school have collected numbers from the parents who own a smartphone and formed WhatsApp groups to keep in touch with their students. Of the 40 students in my class, only 23 student have access to WhatsApp through their parents’ phone. The rest do not have smartphones, hence we reach out to them over phone calls,” says Sreevidya, a teacher at GVMC Waltair II school.

Sreevidya spends almost two hours every morning formulating homework for students of class four and five. “Every day I select one subject from Telugu, English, Maths and Environmental studies and send a list of questions for them to find answers from their textbooks. The children send a picture of their completed work and I respond by evening correcting their mistakes or explaining certain topics through voice notes. Teachers are making efforts to ensure that students do not forget the lessons they have learnt in schools,” she adds.

WhatsApp logo

WhatsApp logo   | Photo Credit: alexsl

Keeping them in school

However, D A Naidu, Principal of KDPM High School worries over a larger problem — students dropping out. “Of the 900 students in our school, over 60% are from migrant families who came to Visakhapatnam from various parts of Andhra Pradesh. Most of these families are daily wagers and have returned to their native places due to the lockdown. Only time will tell if they come back to school when normalcy returns,” says Naidu.

The Andhra Pradesh government is broadcasting school lessons through the State-owned channel DD Saptagiri. “But lessons cannot be just a one-way dialogue. Students need to discuss the topics and raise questions to understand the concepts clearly,” says Sridevi Thriumala, a biology teacher at KDPM High School.

Unlike Sreevidya who just posts homework for primary school students, Sridevi helps the students with new lessons by sending them useful YouTube links and her hand-written notes that she scans and uploads in the groups. “Even before the lockdown, we had a group for class 10 where I posted previous years' question papers and details about important concepts from each lesson. But since the lockdown began, we have started such groups even for class eight and nine. The aim is not to teach these kids something new, it is to revise whatever they have been taught during regular classes,” she adds.

Sridevi has been encouraging practical learning among the students by giving them experiments to perform using household items. “Studies shouldn’t feel like a burden, and we should not forget that this is a tough time even for these students. So to just add some fun, I make them do experiments based on biological concepts. For instance, I recently asked them to make a working lung model using old plastic bottles or balloons. The children happily upload videos of their experiments to the groups. I can’t wait to see those experiments in person once they get back to school,” she says.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 1:44:32 PM |

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