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LIVING WITH COVID: Pained by academic loss, teachers start community classes for poor students in far-flung areas

Srinagar: It is 10 am and children in Katainwali village of Baramulla district put school bags on their shoulders and walks to a nearby grassland. A group of government school teachers welcomes them as they sit down to scribble the notes.

Welcome to COVID community classes, a unique initiative by local teachers to impart education to the poor students in far-flung areas.

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the government closed all educational institutions and started online and teleclasses. However, switch over from classroom teaching to online education left economically backward students in the lurch.  

“We were pained to see the plight of the children, who were missing out on online classes because they did not have access to the internet or other media. After getting in touch with other teachers, we decided to hold community classes in the village,” said Parvaiz Ahmad, who works as a teacher at Government High School Katianwali.

The community classes evoked a good response from the students. It was both education and recreation for the students who enjoyed every bit  of it after being confined to homes for long.

 “Master Ji… Hum ney suna hai koi janwar goom raha hai gaow mai jo insaanu ko kha jaata hai jis ko virus bolte hai. (Sir… we have heard that a monster is roaming in our village and consuming humans),” came a reply from a primary-class student when he was asked what does he think about the coronavirus.

Teachers said such was the ignorance that children thought that the virus is some kind of a wild animal roaming in the village. 

“We started educating students about coronavirus. We told them that this is a germ that enters the body through hands, mouth, and nose. We made them understand how they can protect themselves. Taking note of these points, children started carrying small soap and water in their bags for regular hand washing,” said Parvaiz.

Tariq Rashid, another teacher said that students are excited to meet their classmates after a long time.

“Necessity is the mother of invention. Starting community classes was a need of an hour because more than half of the population of this village is backward and cannot afford smartphones or TV sets. We are trying to make up for the academic loss,” he said.

Teachers even involved local panchayat leaders to convince the kids to attend the community classes. “Some teachers even visited the homes of students to motivate parents to allow their wards to join community classes in nearby grasslands,” said Tariq.

Community schools have become a hit in the village. Students from lower primary to 10th attend these community classes regularly. The classes start at 10 am and continue until the afternoon.