Madurai

Engaging tribal students during lockdown

Tribal students of Pitchandi Middle School studying in open space at Siraikadu in Theni district.

Tribal students of Pitchandi Middle School studying in open space at Siraikadu in Theni district.  

At a time when parents are finding it tough to handle their children during the pandemic-induced extended holidays, a government-aided middle school in a remote pocket of Theni district has found a novel way to engage students.

Pitchandi Middle School, established in 1937, has 122 students studying from classes 1 to 8. With Tamil as the medium of education, the school has nine teachers including the headmaster, R. Jayakumar. Some 20 tribal students are from Siraikadu, about 10 km from here.

To ensure that the tribal children attend classes without hindrance, teachers and some parents contribute money and arrange for their transport to the school in two auto rickshaws, says the headmaster.

With schools closing down in March, students in urban areas may not face problems in attending online classes. But it is not the case for those living in remote hamlets, where many still have only ordinary phones.

Further, most of the parents of the tribal students are either illiterate or school dropouts engaged in farming activities. Very few among them have exposure to higher education and understand the nuances of literacy, the teachers told The Hindu.

Hence, it was decided to organise classes in open places in the tribal habitations, says the headmaster. “The syllabus is sent to a parent in the village and students are made to sit in open space and learn. The blackboard rests on a two-wheeler and physical distancing is ensured.”

The children are being taught calligraphy since last week, says a teacher, who rides to the tribal village once a week on her two-wheeler to conduct classes. “The idea is to engage them in a useful manner and teach them about dos and don’ts during the pandemic,” A. Dhanalakshmi, a teacher, adds.

Prior to the lockdown, the school had a unique routine. Following the morning prayer, a senior student reads headlines from newspapers. Once a week, a parent is invited to hoist the national flag at the prayer. Recently, school authorities roped in a chartered accountant to arranged PAN cards for 24 students after one of them raised a query about it. The objective is to turn students into well-educated and responsible citizens.

Also, the school never forgets to celebrate the birth anniversaries of late leaders. On July 15, for instance, Kamaraj’s birth anniversary was celebrated and senior students were told to speak about the contribution of the late leader.

Nagaraj of Sirakadu, a class 4 student, says he has learnt calligraphy and listens to stories about historical figures like Socrates.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2020 4:57:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/engaging-tribal-students-during-lockdown/article32261734.ece

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