‘We couldn’t go to school, our school came to us!’

Although the present Covid-19 pandemic has had drastic impact on all our lives and brought changes in several fields including education yet, Krishnagar Public School, Nadia district (Bengal) has embraced these challenges with purposeful interventions to ensure continuity of academics writes Ramesh Kumar Agarwal, VICE-PRINCIPAL of the school

Yes, you heard it right guys! “Actually, our school, Krishnagar Public School, Nadia district started these Virtual classes, so that we remained in touch with our courses and kept upto the schedule. The teachers are even providing extra notes and study material to compensate the physical absence. There is a regular timetable for the classes and even after they are over, there’s follow up to do. So basically, I’m properly engaged the whole day,” says one student of the school.

In the wake of the nation-wide lock down situation to contain the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, educational institutions like schools, colleges and universities have been closed resulting in complete education disruption. There are various challenges faced by the educational institutions in the present times. This is a serious concern because not only does the lockdown keep people from going to work, it keeps them at home which at times may be very depressing, especially when it comes to young children.

Krishnagar Public School, a CBSE affiliated school in Nadia district, West Bengal in its battle to fight this crisis situation has tried to come up with some unique and innovative measures to continue their teaching-learning process with the least disruption possible.

While completely obeying the directive of social distancing, KPS has started live online classes for its Class X and XII students following a regular schedule from 25th March, 2020.  In order to facilitate the learning process further, the teachers are preparing digital content and videos on the relevant topics and sharing with the students via ERP softwares and even popular social media. They are also making effective use of O-Labs and other digital educational initiatives in a routine manner to ensure effective learning. Since education is no more confined to the walls of schools there is now limitless possibility to explore.

While online classes were started, the lack of books has become an impediment to the students. To overcome this KPS urged the publishers to provide e-books to all students. The publishers gladly agreed, which enabled the students to consult the text books while taking online classes from their respective teachers.

After a week of successful completion of online classes for Classes X and XII, they started similar schedule for it’s middle school, Classes VI to IX as well. As students in this category do not even have their texts books, teachers are first sharing the e-texts of the chapters they are going to start the following day.

The teachers even interacted with parents and students individually via Whatsapp and Google Duos not only to provide technical support but also to clear individual doubts. After achieving the right balance between ‘chalk & talk’ and ‘click  & navigate’ the next challenge is to achieve the right mix of instructor led learning & self-learning.

Success in implementing the same strategy even in the middle school has given them the confidence of start the same structure for their primary section, Class I to V as well. With the understanding that such smaller students would find it difficult to read e-texts, they have kept the study materials based on Extramarks App that the students would find interactive and fun. Unless we vary the method of learning experience, the students get bored very soon and they are highly creative in their excuses for not joining the online lessons so during the online classes, teachers provide guidance and ensure the students understanding of the content they are learning through the Extramarks App and interactive websites like Pschool.in in a fun manner.

Though there are huge challenges that the teachers are encountering on a regular basis including jamming of servers of these virtual class platforms due to excessive traffic, network issues, guiding those parents who are not too tech-savvy. But with genuine appreciation from parents and families for their efforts and initiatives amidst the crisis, the team implemented the fourth phase with virtual classes for the pre-primary students. Though thrice a week, these classes are interactive and activity based with rhymes, songs, crafts and other activities. The ‘chotkus’(little ones) start pouring comments like ‘Ma’am, please don’t get out of your house… naughty virus will attack you’ or ‘It’s a long time we have shared our tiffin together… when will we have our next class party, Ma’am?’ making the teachers so emotional. Naturally, the parents are highly satisfied and relieved and students find it exciting. They can now fruitfully use their time in a structured way.

“Our School like many other CBSE schools traditionally begins its new sessions in the first week of April and then break for summer vacations in May. This pattern, however, will have to be changed this year as schools cannot reopen in the first week of April due to the lockdown. But we could not have waited for the situation to return to normal for us to begin with our new session, that would mean that all our students would be deprived of their basic right, i.e, education for months. We are trying to adapt policies that we feel would be in the best interest of our students,” explained Dr. Sankar Prasad Dutta Principal, Krishnagar Public School.

However, challenges were many as they cater to students from various socio-economic background and they were also aware that most students don’t learn as well online as they do in face-to-face classes. Further, conducting classes alone was not enough, they had to provide ample support materials and other guidance as most of the students were without books. Moreover, addressing the issue of the challenge of addressing rural and economically-challenged students who do not have access to laptops and smart phones, and overcoming the digital divide was something very pertinent for us.

“Thankfully, our educational institution has the capacity to adopt it and our teachers the bandwidth to teach over video conferencing apps. Moreover, every child’s coping mechanism is different and to ensure the holistic – physical, emotional and mental well-being of children we are sincerely trying our best to make the days and life of our students stress-free and lively”, revealed Dr Dutta.

It’s very important to teach life skills too at this time, apart from academics. It is a very pertinent time for all to realize the necessity of integrating social skills team work and internet etiquette and protocol not only for the students but for all stakeholders to ensure safe cyberspace for all and promote Digital Citizenship amongst students. This crisis is testing all our resources and also challenging us to explore all the untapped potential with a very positive manner.

Keeping these ideas in mind, the next stage was to introduce co-curricular activities to help the students emotionally and ethically fight this lock down period. Sessions on lifeskills, dance, music, yoga and freehand exercises were introduced, even for parents at a separate time slot. Special Japanese language classes were also introduced keeping in mind the linguistic intelligence of the students. KPS believes in multiple intelligence and plans to deliver cratering to all the intelligences.

Following the guidance of CBSE, the school decided to participate in the FitIndia Movement to encourage the students to remain healthy by including exercises and sports as their daily habit. Undoubtedly, it is difficult to run such classes but one must agree that at least this platform has given them an interrupted connection with the students, however, the personal interaction always remain unparallel as it contributes the EQ of students and even teachers. More importantly the role of parents too has increased manifold especially in monitoring the young children and supervising them during the use of electronic weblinks and pages.

Dir Amitava Guha

Considering it as a moral obligation, letters were issued to students and staff pointing the challenges the determined healthcare workers are facing due to scarcity of adequate PPE and COVID-19 testing kits apart from several other basic requirements. Further, the lockdown situation has resulted in loss of employment opportunities for a huge percentage of our population. Businesses are running at a loss, families are starving and people are suffering. As responsible future citizens of the nation, the school urged it’s students to try and make as much contribution as is possible from their end to ensure the safety and well-being of all fellow citizens, as the school believed, even little amount kept aside from the pocket money as donation can make a huge difference to a large number of people in these challenging times and eventually help the greater community. Stress was given on the new vision of the school, ‘It is time to unite and show solidarity towards the entire nation in this global crisis’. The teachers and staff contributed their one day’s salary and plan to organize other help and assistance programs for those in need during this crisis situation.

As all this requires a lot of coordination and teamwork, KPS Director, Amitava Guha is contributing to the ongoing virtual classroom project enthusiastically. Headmistress, Indrani Bhattacharyya is leading a committed team and making it a cooperative and collaborative experience for both teachers as well as students.

Surely, this experience has brought in a new way of life amidst this global pandemic.