In these times of Covid-19, as a teacher my aim should be to lift the burden from students and not to put more burdens on them, either psychologically or financially. I am not alone in thinking so; teachers in thousands of government and private schools and in coaching centres are performing their duties with a sense of ethics and moral responsibility. I am immensely proud of the resilience, flexibility and professionalism of our teachers who have stayed focused on delivering education to our student community during this pandemic. We are equally appreciative of the support of our student community.
I manage an economical tuition centre in Karan Nagar, Kaka Sarai, Srinagar. It is one of 300 plus coaching centers that continue to maintain a state of full operational readiness during the pandemic despite the financial and operational challenges. It is unfortunate that proprietors of many coaching centres, like me, are facing financial crisis in the form of bank liabilities, rent, staff salary, and other miscellaneous taxes and bills. Evidence is emerging to show that the closure of coaching centres has resulted in actual learning losses, the gravity of which only an experienced teacher can understand. It is obvious that children from socioeconomically advantaged families will receive more parental support towards their studies during the closure period, so what about those who are not so privileged? Do they enjoy the same rights?
Can we implement a learning recovery programme? We want to see a ray of hope, and all we have complete faith in Almighty Allah, but the thing is that the education sector is not getting out of the lockdown anytime soon, and the worst part is that the government is least bothered.
To recover the learning losses, it is essential that the education budget be enhanced and schools as well as tuition/ coaching centres be financially supported. The government should direct funding and resources to schools and coaching centers particularly when these are supporting the most needy student population during the pandemic. A learning recovery programme will not be feasible without financial support of the government.
It is imperative that we not only recover from this pandemic but also use this experience to prepare ourselves for a future crisis. The education sector, particularly private education sector, is the most result-oriented sector. Every one of us, be it teachers or management or the student community, work as a team round the clock. We have the strong belief that Allah is there to protect our families, and if we think good for others, good will also happen to us. This attitude will, Insha Allah, protect the career of our students not only during the pandemic but also help us succeed in all situations during and after the pandemic. Here is an opportunity for more individualised approaches to teaching and learning, and with this in mind, it is necessary to develop flexible curricula that can be taught online.
As a Maths teacher, I have to use the board and marker continuously during offline or online classes, but switching to online mode was a good experience. I was not able to face the camera at first but now it has become a daily routine. It took some time to adapt to the new online environment. I feel it is human nature to take time to adapt. The government, though, must include online methods of teaching in the curriculum of BEd and MEd courses, so that it is a usual exercise when the situation demands.
As far as my personal experience goes, students have also now adapted to this transformation. During the early days of the pandemic when we started online mode of teaching, early in 2020, we were aware of the fact that 4G internet was not there, but we delivered our best in that situation, too. I heartily congratulate my fraternity for making the impossible possible. Now the increase in internet speed and more accessibility has led to an increase in the demand for online learning in Kashmir as well. We must understand that online learning is attracting more and more students for better learning experiences, but at the same time many of them encounter challenges that can cause hindrance in their learning. Technical glitches add to the problems. Many of my students are connected with me from far-flung areas where accessibility and reliability of internet is the main issue. Time is also an issue: students have to manage their time between online classes at schools and also at private institutes. Overall, students have now learned to manage their time slots, with some of them having learned to overlap their classes on the same screen!
However, students have also learned to bow before the screen for hours together, hurting their eyes and neck and killing their social life. Physical interaction is a very important aspect of social life, for after all, we are humans, not machines.
Lastly, there is a well-known saying: “For every problem, there is a solution.” So, let’s not lose heart. Let’s not only see the challenges but also the solutions to overcome them. I close this article by making my humble call to the concerned government agencies that they kindly come up with a plan or roadmap to assist the deserving schools/coaching centers that are dire in need of financial assistance. If not now, then the people in general will have to pay the penalty, within the next few months, of losing the schools and coaching centers they can afford.
The writer is Director of Asif Sir’s Tuition Centre, Karan Nagar, Kaka Sarai, Srinagar.