Dumka: "Teachers can change the world" -- and that is what Shyam Kishore Singh Gandhi, the headmaster of a school in Jharkhand's Dumka district, has been trying to for his over 200 students, who may be bereft of smartphones but not the willingness to attend classes amid the lockdown.
Gandhi has put up several loudspeakers across the Bankathi village where his Upgraded Middle School is located, and classes are being held for two hours every day since April 16, beating the odds of online learning.
The students sit near the loudspeakers which have been put up on trees and walls at different locations, and attend the classes.
"Louder speakers are put up where the number of students is more. Five teachers and two para teachers teach over the mike from the classroom, Gandhi said.
Thousands of schools and colleges across India have switched to online as classrooms remain shut since mid-March amid the coronavirus outbreak.
There are 246 students from class 1 to class 8, and 204 of them dont have mobile phones," Gandhi said.
He said the classes start at 10 am daily.
"If the students have any doubt or want to ask any question, they can send their queries to me from anyone's mobile phone and we explain it the next day," he added.
Gandhi said the model is working and students are grasping well what is being taught.
The students are receptive and are enjoying the new style of studying, said an elderly villager.
Lauding the headmaster, Dumka's district education officer Poonam Kumari said all the 2,317 government schools here should emulate the model so that the students would not have to struggle to complete the syllabus once the lockdown is lifted.
The effort is praiseworthy and all the schools in Dumka district should follow this idea in the interest of the students, Kumari said, adding that she would soon visit the school and the village to learn about the teaching method.
Even as students in cities and towns across the country attend classes online, rural areas continue to grapple with the new system due to unsteady connectivity and lack of devices such as smartphones and computers.
There have been multiple incidents of suicides among students over not being able to attend online classes.
A class 9 student set herself afire in Valancherry in Kerala earlier this month for not being able to attend online classes as she did not have a smartphone and the television in her house was not working. Similar incidents have been reported from several other states, including Assam and West Bengal.