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They go beyond the call of duty to ensure that no child is left behind

While many students in private schools are able to learn through their online classes, their peers in government and aided schools have not been so fortunate. But some teachers are knocking on the doors of their students under the Department of Primary and Secondary Education’s Vidyagama programme. Here are profiles of three teachers who have gone beyond the call of duty to help their students pick up new skills during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Science teacher with his mobile lab

From the last one month, Shashi Kumar B.S., a science teacher at the Government High School, Yelekyatanahalli, Nelamangala, Bengaluru Rural district, has been travelling with his laboratory kit to six villages near his school.

He asks students to bring a few household items such as citrus fruits and baking soda, which he uses to demonstrate experiments at a common space in each village. His mobile lab is stocked with small beakers, test tubes, spatula, litmus paper, etc.

“This kind of learning is a good opportunity for students to see science in their everyday life as they are involved in hands-on activity,” he said. As these “classes” are conducted in smaller groups, he is able to give students individual attention. After Mr. Kumar demonstrates the experiments, he asks the students to write notes about what they learnt.

Several students in his school are children of migrant labourers who have now moved temporarily to Chitradurga, Raichur, Bagalkot, Ballari, and Sira. He conducts classes on Google Meet between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. five days a week for them.

Personal attention

Forty-six-year-old Lakshmidevi A., a primary school teacher who teaches Kannada and science, has been experimenting with teaching methods to ensure that all her students are able to pick up new skills and also get access to her worksheets and assignments during the pandemic.

Before the Department of Primary and Secondary Education launched the Vidyagama programme, Ms. Lakshmidevi and her colleagues at the Government Higher Primary School, Cauverypuram, tried to get in touch with students through social networking platforms. “I would send them assignments on WhatsApp, ask them to complete it and send it to me. But many students did not have access to smartphones so I would talk to them on the phone and ask them to do a few assignments,” she said.

She maintains individual files of all her students and monitors the academic progress of her students who have migrated temporarily to north Karnataka.

Ms. Lakshmidevi, who has spent over two-and-a-half decades as a teacher, said that although she was initially worried about her health, she mustered the courage to make house calls. “As there is a lack of space in the city, I call my students to parks and sometimes we sit on pavements in front of their homes,” she said.

Taking the risk

Riding her two-wheeler R. Manjula reached the Government Lower Primary School at Kodase, about 9 km from Hosanagar taluk centre in Shivamogga district, on August 26. After attending routine work in school, she had plans to reach her Class 2 student Prakash’s place to teach him for a few hours as part of the Vidyagama programme.

On her way, Ms. Manjula was stopped by three masked men, who took her chain, rings, and bangles at knifepoint. “Normally, I don’t wear jewellery whenever I go out to work. But, that day I had attended a festival at my mother’s house. They took away 97 grams of gold I had purchased spending my savings in the 18-year service as a teacher,” said the 41-year-old.

She works in the school with only two students. During the lockdown, she pays a visit to both the students and spends a couple of hours at each house every day. “As per the norms, we cannot conduct classes in the school, even if the number of students is as low as two. We have to visit students’ places and make them study,” she said.

With the lockdown in effect, buses were stopped, forcing her to depend on her two-wheeler.

“Like me, many teachers are travelling in remote areas alone to teach students during this lockdown. We are going through a different experience altogether,” she said.

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