Online-class could never be the substitute for the offline class in a country like ours in particular. Due to the corona pandemic, the normal classes (off-line) in all the schools have been suspended since 17 March 2020. We including the guardians of students from primary to university level are in a situation of big uncertainty regarding the fate of our kids. The students of primary level are in more risk as they are yet to be concerned about their life. So, a special effort from all concerned is in progress to overcome the ongoing impact on our primary students. However, we need more motivational work for the students, guardians, teachers and the grassroots level workers associated with the primary education system.
Initially, it was thought that everything will be okay within a few months. Unfortunately, that was not and the kids were more or less confined to their home without any proper guidance. Thus, the teaching and learning program was almost in a stage of dormant, especially for the students from families who are not much privileged. The corona pandemic is now on its second wave and getting worse with days. It’s uncertain when we would have our liberated life again as it was before. Till then, no alternative way but to accept the reality just to avoid the contagious incursive crisis. Alongside, it is felt that the kids must be in contact with the learning processes. From the very beginning of the crisis, the teachers at the primary level were aware of the situation. Their response to cope with the crisis at the grassroots level was quite encouraging. Without any prior preparation, they tried to be accustomed to the online class system. But due to the economic barrier, the incognizance of the guardians, and in some cases the displacement of the residence of the students and the teachers, online teaching was not in its full potential as desired. That is why there was a proposal in a monthly (June 2020) Upazila coordination meeting (Kamarkhand, Upazila) to take direct classes during students’ home visits (home-visit-class) maintaining all sorts of health regulations recently imposed by the government and with due honour to the traditional social norms as well. It may be mentioned that home-visit is a routine work done by the teachers. The frequency of visits could be arranged on the availability of teachers and the number of students. The proposal was discussed with utter importance. After the permission from the relevant authority, the head-teachers were asked to assign the school-catchment-area of a particular school among the teachers so that they could offer teaching during their home visit. Despite some initial difficulties, the teachers tried their best to carry out the instructions. The result was quite satisfactory. With the co-operation of the teachers, the home-visit class (specialized off-line) is still in progress. Vis-à-vis the online classes were in operation too as it is going on till today. Thus, based on the record of these online and specialized offline classes, the students were promoted to their respective higher classes in 2020. Considering the online and home-visit classes to be held in 2021, all the syllabi were revised and rearranged, locally. Following the syllabi, the teaching program is in operation well-handed.
It may be mentioned that it was not so easy to teach the students during the home visit prior to get the instructions through the 30 April-zoom-meeting. Many of the teachers have to stay away from the school-catchment area. Many of them had their plea like, “The pandemic situation will not continue longer and the school will be open soon. So, why do we have to take the home-visit classes in addition to regular home visit risking the life”? Some were a little hesitant to take this kind of class as they thought the authority might get annoyed. The program is in full swing all over the country since the message was transmitted through this virtual meeting (online meeting). Thus, the effectiveness of the online program is proved instantly. But this kind of initiative was a month-long process to get into action before the introduction of online activities.
Not only education, the situation of nutritional security, social security, protection from early marriage is also under intimidation. So, for recovery, regular counselling to the students and their guardians is necessary. Accordingly, we have some ongoing programs like mothers-meeting (meeting with the mothers of students) and guardians-meeting (meeting with the guardians of the students), and yard-meeting (meeting at the homestead), separately maintaining all sorts of health and social precautions. So, there is no incidence of early marriage till now and the number of school dropouts is not unusual.
The most of the rural kids have their education in the government-run primary school depending on farm-based economy which is not so sound. So, the government has already many ongoing programs to assist those students. That is why education at the primary level has experienced a major twist. Unfortunately, the corona pandemic has its sting on us when the rate of admission is a hundred per cent. To get rid of this sting to some extent, the online program has been initiated. However, the online education program from high school to university level is not a new introduction to open universities all over the world. This is just an interactive way (an application of e-governance) like classroom teaching using the internets and different digital communication tools which is a form of e-governance. E-governance ensures transparency, liability, and dynamism of government. At the same time, it helps to awaken the awareness of the mass. The ongoing system of online class, salary disbursement, official information exchange, etc. is also the part of e-governance. Due to the pandemic, everybody cherishes the idea that online teaching is the only method to educate the students. But it has already been mentioned that due to its limitation, some alternative thoughts are in progress. The home-visit teaching method is one of them. The students at the primary level have to acquire 29 marginal qualities to increase their knowledge, efficiency, and vision. Out of these qualities, serial numbers 8 and 20 are most relevant to cope with the present pandemic situation. That is, one has to be accustomed to adversity and disaster and make oneself able to deal with the situation and be confident. So, we have no choice but to help them earn the quality described in serial numbers 8 and 20.
Sheikh Russel Digital Labs were established all over the country to acquire the ability of number 8 marginal quality. Multimedia and laptops are available in those labs. Teachers have been trained on ICT. The government is paying the internet bills. The relevant other grants are also available. Now the expectation is: the teachers have to help the students with their utmost professional effort to achieve the 4th target of the SDG by 2030 i.e. free primary and secondary education for all.
Just a month ago (5 June 2021 a National daily (Amar Sangbad) published news that children are under the most risk of Covid-19 in Malaysia. Out of 82 thousand and 341 infected children, 19 thousand, and 858 were within five years of age. The percentage of infected children in the 13-18 age group was 33.27. The present situation in our country is nothing different from that of Malaysia. It is better to say that situation is getting worse with time for the kids. So, it is utterly important to educate kids of the primary level through the judicial application of the virtual methods. Mother-meeting, guardian-meeting, yard-meeting, etc. are also equally applicable where the kids have no or a little access to the virtual classes. Special attention is expected for the orphans and helpless kids as if they do not become the victim of discrimination. The guardians have to come forward also. They have to sit with their children in the morning and the evening, to guide them to peruse their daily lesson. In the case of the illiterate guardians, they could seek help from the educated nearby neighbours. Vis-à-vis, the students should be encouraged to watch the ‘Ghorebosheshikhi (N‡i e‡m wkwL)’ an education program by Sangsad TV and listen to the similar program broadcast by Bangladesh Betar. All these events should be assured by the concerned teachers. More so, they could advise the students through mobile-phone (if they have access to the mobile phone). In no way the students should be addicted to internet technology while using virtual classes. That is to say, the teachers’ role should be as the watchman for the students under their concern. In contrast, there should have a vigilance team also to oversee the teachers’ new activities to take care of the students. But the vigilance team must not lay hands on any of the teachers under their concern.
We have to stay home safe to avoid the effect of corona pandemic. At the same time, it is necessary to turn every home to school. This is not much difficult for the sincere and hardworking teachers provided the guardians are cooperative. Last but not least, we have to remind ourselves that the present-day kid will lead the country in the 2040s. So, it is our duty to strengthen our primary education system through the integration of different methodologies mentioned above to overcome the loss we are having so far.
The writer is an Upazila Education Officer, Kamarkhand, Sirajganj