Children have returned to schools after a gap of several months due to the pandemic, leaving teachers with the difficult task of handling them. Many have forgotten the basics of reading and writing, a majority of students are struggling to recall multiplication tables and for some sitting in the class for three hours without a break has become a task.
Except for a few, a majority of students, particularly in rural areas, remained away from schools since the outbreak of the pandemic, which forced the government to shut the schools. However, a few who could afford cellphones and the internet remained in touch with teachers online. Classes 6 to 8 began on September 6 and classes IX and X were opened on August 23. Though attendance is not compulsory, teachers are insisting that parents send their children to school in the interest of their studies.
“It takes a long time to bring students back on track,” said Raghavendra Bhat, who teaches at Government High School at Megaravalli in Tirthahalli taluk. The teachers tried to keep in touch with students through mobile phones and WhatsApp all these months. Many parents purchased smartphones to help children continue their studies. “A majority of students need extra attention. We are taking them into confidence by giving them simple assignments to do at home. The purpose is to engage them gradually in the process of learning. Otherwise, they might give up studies,” he said.
Normally students in rural areas assist their parents in agriculture works during vacation. However, this time as there was no school for several months, many had taken up non-agricultural work. “Some parents due to financial problems sent their children to different places to work and earn. When we enquiry, the parents maintain that their children had been to a relative’s place. They are yet to return to school. Moreover, the department has not made attendance compulsory. Hence, we cannot force them to attend,” said a teacher, who wished not to be named. The teacher said many students were still working at construction sites, grocery shops and vegetable markets as helpers.
“Children from families with education background are doing well. But, the parents with no good income could hardly afford to cellphones and internet connection. We insisted such children visit schools at least once a week in the last few months. Because of our efforts, our students have not given up studies,” said Rekha Prabhakar, teacher at Government Higher Primary School at Nulligere in Hosanagar taluk.
In some schools, the situation is not bad. As the schools reopened, the students happily returned. “In our school attendance in classes 6 and 7 is full. Students and their parents are happy that the schools reopened,” said Chaitra K.N., teacher at GHPS at Byadarahalli in Hassan taluk. The teachers of the school had formed a Whatsapp group of parents and were in touch with them regularly. “When schools were shut, we distributed work-sheets to parents and ensured students fill them up. This has helped us keep the children learning during these months,” she added.