Kolkata

Unable to access smart classes, Nuh discovers ‘smart learning’

Radio Mewat’s tutors conducting a class.

Radio Mewat’s tutors conducting a class.  

Mohalla pathshalas, radio tuitions and loudspeakers: this is how Haryana’s Nuh responded to the challenges posed by poor digital connectivity and overcame the disruption in education system caused by the lockdown.

The results are satisfactory, if not fabulous. Just over a month after theclasses at mohalla level were introduced, 135 mohalla pathshalas are running in 62 villages, catering to around 3,500 students.

Haryana’s education department has been imparting lessons through television channels and online classes on mobile phones since April, but more than half of the students in Nuh have no access to them. Only a small fraction of the population in Muslim-dominated Nuh has TVs and smartphones. “We found that only 27% households in Nuh had TV sets and around 20% students had access to smartphones,” said Nuh Education Officer Anoop Singh Jakhar.

To tackle this problem, Mr. Jakhar, after he took over in July, decided to hold classes in small bunches at the mohalla level. But the fear of the infection was a major concern. “I assured the Deputy Commissioner that classes will be conducted with all the precautions in place. I argued that it would not be difficult to contain the spread if someone was infected since the class caters to just 10-12 students staying on the same street, and he agreed,” explained Mr. Jakhar, an ex-serviceman.

But there was a bigger challenge: the scarcity of teaching staff. Nuh has a large number of vacancies, and only a few teachers are local. The education department encouraged the local youth to contribute to the cause, albeit “free of cost”. These youth are christened “Shiksha Doots (ambassadors of education)” and promised recognition from the authorities for their contribution. Starting from Biwan village in Ferozepur Jhirka block, the concept of mohalla pathshalas has now been implemented in almost one-eighth of the district, catering to students till middle school level.

For the senior students, the district education department has initiated classes through loudspeakers mounted on schools buildings, shrines and a couple of buses run by an NGO. However, the project is still in its infancy.

Community radio station

Radio Mewat, a community radio station run by SMART, a non-government organisation, is another important player that bridges the gap with ‘radio tuitions’. Imparting lessons to students from Class V-X for three years now, the team Radio Mewat decided to cater to the pre-primary-level students as well during the lockdown. “We felt the need to reach out to the students from Class I-V,” said Komal Sharma, station coordinator.

The radio channel’s director Archana Kapoor, also founder, SMART, recalled how the poor board results in 2017 prompted them to start three-hour radio tuitions. After initial resistance from the listeners, the concept was received well.

But it involves a great deal of hard work, especially with limited resources. Led by station in-charge Sohrab Khan, the team Radio Mewat coordinates with the teachers in private schools to record lessons during the classes and plays them for the listeners.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2020 8:33:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/unable-to-access-smart-classes-nuh-discovers-smart-learning/article32417291.ece

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