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Covid-19: Teachers burn midnight oil to continue imparting education

April 21, 2020

With lockdown due to COVID-19 across the country, schools have resorted to online teaching tools to continue providing education to their students. However, this has increased the preparation time for teachers and they are finding it difficult to juggle between school work, classes and household chores as they do not have access to any domestic help too. They manage with time that they get in between classes and planning for a week during the weekends. 

Moushumi Das, an English teacher at Indus International School, Bangalore said the challenge is not just the technology but also rescheduling the discipline at home. A parent to a 21-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome, she says she manages her work ensuring her son is engaged in some activity. “The classes are held between 9 am and 3.30 pm. Before I get into a class, I assign some tasks to my son so that he is occupied. Parents of children with special needs also hold classes on the Facebook group. So, he attends them twice or thrice every week. I try to balance my work and household responsibilities. I wake up at 5.30 am every day and cook food for my family. My husband helps to take care of our son too,” she said. She added that though it is challenging as she doesn’t get enough ‘me time’, it is fun to try and overcome these challenges. “Children are more attentive in the classroom as the vice principal and other senior staff also attend the classes and they can see their names popping up on the screen display,” she said.   

Getting a hang of it

The teachers had to quickly grasp all the technicalities and use of online tools that can be used for learning. Suchismita Gupta, a coordinator for middle school at Capstone High, Hoskote said teachers need to be more ready and prepared to conduct classes online. “We use Google Meet to hold classes and other sites to help design assessments. We need to plan very well to the last t. The preparation time is longer as we need to design online quizzes and presentations on the chapter that we are teaching. With no domestic help at home, we are multitasking but it is also important to keep connecting with our students. The learning got stalled and examinations got cancelled. So, we knew we had to do something to reach out to them. Within a week, we had quick meetings and looked at all the platforms to check what can be used,” she said. As there are no alternatives, teachers are managing with the help they can receive from their family members and schools.

Anjali Negi, a coordinator for the primary section at Legacy School, Bangalore said, “We are providing flexibility and an extended hand to help our teachers. We have another teacher for the same class. If one is unable to take class, the other teacher takes the lead. The timings of the class are decided as per the convenience of both the teachers and parents. Children are informed about the time well in advance.”    

Preparing extra resources and work for students

Teaching subjects like math and science is more challenging as the teachers do not have access to boards to explain or equipment to demonstrate experiments. Vandana Giri, a science teacher at Neev Academy, Bangalore said as the travel time to school is saved, she finds time in the evenings to prepare materials for her class and also do household chores. “As we also do not have school on weekends, we plan during that time for classes throughout the week. I look for resources that I can share with the students to keep them engaged. It gets very difficult to explain concepts without a board or laboratory equipment to demonstrate. Hence, I ensure that every concept is supported with a video or document,” she added.         

Teachers also have to prepare extra work or equations for students to solve. Nilakshi Pal, a math teacher at Deens Academy, Bangalore said they started online classes in the beginning of March after a student’s parent got detected with COVID-19 positive. “Initially it was difficult to find safe tools that can be used for online learning. We use the Zoom app though it has some safety issues. We use it with the video off and hence, it is not possible to read facial expressions of students and know if they have understood the concept,” she said. A mother of a four-year-old boy, she also has to prepare some extra classwork as few students complete the problem sooner in the class and they won’t be engaged until everybody else finishes the work. “I have to be ready with extra problems that she can share with them on WhatsApp for them to solve. The students should also be handy with their parents’ phones so that they can access the classwork. I manage with my kid and household work as I have mutual understanding with my husband. As my baby is too young, he does not understand the issue and wishes to go out and play. My husband and I find some ways to keep him occupied,” she said. 

The teachers say they are trying to overcome challenges as education cannot be stalled. It is rightly said teachers are like candles – they consume themselves to light way for others.

There are many complaints about Zoom app hacking accounts for child pornography and sending malicious e-mails demanding ransom to its users. A petition was written to the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde by advocates Sanpreet Singh Ajmani and Aneesh Sharma. According to the Kashmir Monitor, the letter states that Zoom application is “being heavily used as means of giving online classes to young children across the country, and due to its vulnerabilities, it is not excessive to say that those data can be used to exploit young children and use their videos for illegal and pornographic purposes.” It also questions why the Ministry of Home Affairs has not banned the use of this application after it declared it unsafe for use. After the declaration by the Ministry, many schools have switched to WhatsApp and Google Meet for conducting online classes and holding meetings. 

Akhila Damodaran

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