Mumbai: The state government’s Tribal Development Department has been working with school authorities to make several offline learning tools available for tribal school students as a large number of tribal schools’ students in the state have no access to online education.
The tribal schools cover nearly 4.74 lakh students studying in such school across the state. With the Covid-19 induced restrictions, students are now in their homes, most of which are located in remote areas across the state. The new academic year started online in June this year, but has not done much for them. The tribal schools have a set of challenges ahead of them due to poor connectivity and affordability of the education.
Kiran Kulkarni, former commissioner of the tribal development department said, “Most students studying in these schools have no access to the internet and a basic phone even. So, ensuring that their education continues was important and for this, we came up with a comprehensive plan”.
The department has recently come up with a document titled ‘Unlock Learning’ listing out all the initiatives that it took up over the last 4 months to ensure that offline learning reaches students even as schools remain shut. The initiative has focused on the appointment of local resource persons to facilitate learning among these children.
The 54-page long document compiled by the department states, “To make sure that students continue learning and get the necessary help and support to do so constantly, educated students, anganwadi workers and government employees in the vicinity are appointed as resource persons voluntarily. They have a list of students in their locality and are in a position to play the role of mediators between teachers and students.”
The initiatives includes steps such as alloting 20-25 students to each teacher from ashram schools and visiting homes of these students once a week. Teachers have also been encouraged to remain sensitive to the cultural and social contexts of students. Students will be given workbooks and activity books specially designed for offline learning outside of schools.
“Some homes might not have enough light and the children might be in old clothes. Teachers should be empathetic towards their need,” states the document. Wardens of tribal hostels have been asked to keep a check on students from time to time. Teachers have also shot short videos in the local context to make learning more interesting for students.
Shaila Thakur, a teacher at an aided tribal school in Chikhale, Panvel said, “We go to the localities of students with teaching aids and teach them in small groups. Every day, teachers visit different localities, so once every week, every child gets personal guidance. On the remaining days, we stay in touch through phones’.