East and Northeast
'Lockdown schools' raise hope for students in West Bengal
With schools shut in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown, online classes have emerged as an option for a section of students. But what about those who can neither afford internet connection nor a smartphone? For them, hundreds of teachers from across the state have started to hold unofficial classes in open grounds and gardens so that absence of regular classes in schools can be compensated.
The informal schools, often affectionately called 'lockdown schools' by locals, involve about 16,000 teachers and more than five lakh students across the state. The initiative, a brainchild of Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, mainly focuses on students belonging to the financially weaker section of the society.
'It was the Education Minister who requested us to hold such informal classes for students who can't avail online education. These classes are held in open grounds or gardens and social distancing is strictly maintained,' Jhuma Saha, one of the teachers from East Bardhaman district, told DH.
The students are provided with soap and water to ensure hand hygiene, said Saha. Wearing masks is mandatory in such classes.
One of the key objectives of the initiative is to stand by students living in remote tribal areas of the state with barely any internet connection. One such area is Salboni in West Medinipur district. The students here are so poor that they can't even imagine buying a smartphone let alone have an internet connection, said a teacher involved in the initiative.
They have lost the habit of studying as schools are shut due to the pandemic. But now with informal classes being held once or twice a week, their studies are back on track.
The teachers even go door to door in backward areas to request the guardians of students to send them to the classes. They said that they convince the parents that social distancing will be maintained in the classes so there is nothing to be afraid of. The response so far has been very positive, the teachers said.