Behind the stage.
“Eda, ee net okkey edukkavunna, video okkey kanaan pattunna oru phone paranju kodukku .. nammude Suma chechikku”
When Amma asked me to suggest an affordable smart phone for Suma chechi, our neighbour, I was not at all amused. Her daughter, an eighth standard student has to attend online classes which would probably be in full swing from the next week.
First of all let me confess, I am in no way a tech-savvy and I have no clear idea about these gadgets. But I was quite sure that Antony Chettan, our another neighbour would be able to help. He runs a service centre for mobile phones near Manimala Bus Stand.
“Ammachi, Antony chettanodu poyi chodhicha mathinnu para. Pulliya ee karyathinokke best.”
This was a minor incident. But several thoughts about that incident lingered on me and has prompted me to write a blog about our changing educational scenario. Everyone knows, this change was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Household name is ‘Corona’ though — “bro…. para bro, avde corona okkey evidem vare ayi..?“)
Behind the curtain.
Let us start this ‘interactive session’* by quoting Winston Churchill.
(*What I mean is I will be asking some questions and you are expected to answer it (in your mind.. ya for sure!). I will also be getting questions (imaginery) from you. I will answer it with surety.( Because… You know why..😛)
Churchill once said:
“Never let a good crisis go waste.”
The pandemic has provided several opportunities to revive our public health system. That is the foremost thing necessitated by this ‘Corona’ pandemic. Focus on cleanliness, sanitation has improved in our society. (Ha ha!)
At the same time, there are some issues (sheda!). The emphasis given by the government to tackle this crisis has resulted in hospitals taking up tasks that are particularly to combat this ‘deadly’ virus.
“Ay bro, it is highly infectious. But I don’t think it is a deadly one.Why you say so ?”
(I know, it is not deadly as you said. Mortality rate is rather low. But I referred the virus as deadly because I considered not only the mortality numbers it has created, but also all the human sufferings inflicted on people by this virus.).
Talking about the lapses of the approach of our nation, to tackle this virus, what we now doing is an unprecedented model. This dangerous approach has neglected the care for all other major diseases. It can be seen from the fact that weekly report of ‘Integrated Disease Surveillance Program’ has recorded unusually fewer instances of diseases other than COVID-19. It is actually a huge concern because, it shows the issue of under reporting of other major outbreaks of diseases. Focusing on COVID-19 alone might prove disastrous, if we are unable to check the outbreak of another epidemic.
Another major sector necessited an overhaul in its approach due to this crisis is none other than our educational sector. (Sorry for taking this much time to reach our real intended topic of discussion. You are not getting bored, huh?)
Right to education is not an ordinary right. It is a fundamental right under article 21A of the Indian Constitution. By Right To Education Act of 2009, it becomes the duty of a state to ensure the proper implementation of the provisions of the above said article.
Education provided must be equal and even a student from the most disadvantaged section should be able to access it. Thus focus must be on equality while ensuring education for all.
Our state government has done a great job to start the academic year through online education, consistent with our usual time frame. (‘First bell rang at the right time’ – ‘First Bell’ is the name given to this program.) But the question remains about the inclusiveness of this new educational approach.
CEO of KITE – Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education – in his statement, told not to see ‘First Bell’ as an alternative to the conventional education model. He said that, it is just a mechanism to prepare students(‘sajjamaakkal’ or ‘orukkal prakriya’) before beginning their usual academic year. May be that is why KITE, an organ of our Public Education System, limited the function of its ‘First Bell’ to a single broadcasting media, not to any other platforms. ( This online classes telecasted only through KITE Victor’s channel).
As the pandemic has only tightened its grip, the commencement of the new academic year in the near future is a distant probability. The virtual classes might get extended than the anticipated time slot. In this scenario, we cannot turn away from the real situation by merely suggesting that this is just a stopgap arrangement to keep children connected with academics.
⏳Highlighting the issues: especially that of tribals.
Unfortunately, our new educational approach depends mainly on two factors; economic status and geography. Among all others, tribal population is the most vulnerable in both these aspects. Lack of connectivity and proper infrastructures are still a huge concern for tribals.
In my opinion mainstreaming of tribals is the most misinterpreted term now a days. Actually, the things we mean by mainstreaming indirectly destroys their unique culture and language. Meanwhile, we have to consider the process of providing them education as a seperate process. While providing education to them is a must, we should not see this as the process of so called ‘mainstreaming’.
Giving education is to empower them to become self-aware about their rights and to prevent intrusion of false propagandas from anti-state elements. (Both these points are coming directly from the mind of a ‘self-centred person masquerading as an environmentalist and philanthropist person, living inside the so called ‘mainstream’🙄)
Recently, there was a news about students from a remote village in Attappadi performing satyagraha. Their concern was that, owing to the lack of electricity connection, they were not able to participate in the ongoing online classes. Their demand was genuine. Officials must take immediate actions to solve this problem. It is not good to feel the experiences of our freedom fighters, because they had already suffered enough and have given us the chance to enjoy the fruits of ‘self-governance’.
Care must be taken not to hamper the development of a new Sreedhanya Suresh** from their community. Everyone knows about a child’s mind. There is no need to study psychology to understand the feelings of a child who is being left behind.
(** Actually, we should not limit the success of Sreedhanya Suresh IAS to a narrow perspective . She is a role model material for all the sections of our society, especially for the all vulnerable sections who struggle to mark their presence in our ‘unjust’ society.)
⏳Role of a teacher.
Another important visible change in front of us is in the nature of role of a teacher. The nature of interactions of a teacher with students changed from real to virtual. The story of ‘Thanku puccha‘ was heard everywhere in the first few days of the launching of the ‘First Bell’. It is quite common that children are get attracted to anything new, especially to a new technology. (‘Everyone has the affinity towards something new. What was the term used to refer that?’). But retaining their interest in the online classes and engaging them properly will be another challenge before the teachers in the coming days.
⏳Concerns behind the new Avataram.
Longer screen time for children is another problem. Studies show that longer screen time affects children physically (by straining their eyes) and cognitively. Officials have issued guidelines to limit the duration of online classes to students especially to lower primary students. It is a welcome step.
Nobody can predict what the situation will be tomorrow. Earlier we used this in a literal sense citing the unpredictable nature of our world. But it seems to be more of a reality today. We don’t know when we could be able to proceed with our normal life. By normal life, I mean a life without masks and sanitizers. Schools may reopen before that and students might end up in a wonder land with PPE kits and social distancing.
This situation might wide open the cracks of disparity among students.
Being not mentally mature enough, there is a huge challenge to handle the mind of a child in the Post-COVID period. Knowing that, this ‘small’ population is the most affected by this pandemic, greater care should be taken to look into their concerns.
(Fathima teacher once said to me, it is a good habit to end an answer (read as a blog) with quotes from famous personalities (to score high marks.))
Ok then… I searched for quotes from Gandhiji and Swami Vivekananda. Wait… everyone might know what they said about education…Hmmm…
Then.. I need to find a unique quote ….🤔 The blog demands a quotation on education. But do you think situation demands something different. Right?.. ya I got one…
‘ithu pore nnu nokkikke?‘.
“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
– Charles Darwin.
Karkidaka maasam, a time to recite the verses from ‘Adhyathmaramayana’.
Seventh day of reading…. Ayodhyakhandam.
Scene : Guhasangamam.
ലോകേ സുഖാനന്തരം ദുഃഖമായ് വരു-
മാകുലമില്ല ദുഃഖാനന്തരം സുഖം.
നൂനം ദിനരാത്രി പോലെ ഗതാഗതം.
മുണ്ടു ജലപങ്കമെന്നപോലെ സഖേ!”
Pleasure and pain like day and night… One comes after the other… Unprejudiced… Like dirt in water…
Thank you Ali Fathima for your valuable contributions to this blog.
To read Ali’s blogs, plz visit ….