“Online mode of education is a huge loss for this generation” says Mamata Hiremath in this Q & A session.

*An Exclusive Q & A session

Pune: Trustee of  J.P. Trust Vidya Niketan School, Bibwewadi, Pune, Mrs. Mamata Hiremath talks about the online and offline teaching methods in this exclusive Q & A session.

Her educational qualifications are M.A. in Clinical Psychology, P.G. Diploma in School Psychology, B.Ed, Clinical Hypnotherapy and Past Life Regression.

1. Is the school currently in offline mode?

Yes, we have recently started working in offline mode, and it’s good to have all the children back in school now.

2. How was the online mode experience as the Trustee of the school to you?

Initially, it was challenging. The teachers were not technically equipped to teach the children in an online mode so they had to undergo some training and we made sure that our computer teachers were equipped them with various online teaching modes and methods. All of us need to keep up with the current times; so yes it was a new learning experience for everyone. The teaching-learning had been happening in a traditional way for so many years so the teachers had to unlearn something’s and adopt to new teaching methods.

3. What all challenges did you face in the pandemic period in the means of teaching?

Like I mentioned before the teachers were not technically equipped. So it was something very new for all of us. Nobody knew for how long we would have to teach in the online method, and this uncertainty pervaded in all areas of life. Similarly it was very difficult to come to an empty school and not see the children here. We had to keep only our office functional, till such time that the children were allowed to come.

4. How did the faculty co-operate with you in the pandemic situations?

Fortunately, we have a fantastic team with us, all the teachers co-operated very well, they really worked hard and I think they put in more hours of work than the assigned duty hours. For the preparation of PDF files, making worksheets, assigning online homework the working hours were much more as compared to the offline mode. Also adding to that the teachers had to put in extra efforts to reach out to the children, because initially the Wi-fi and data connections were not very strong so the video camera’s had to be off. Its most challenging for a teacher to understand whether the student has understood the lesson taught in the absence of any feedback from the students, because the teacher is so used to seeing a class full of students answering and reacting to what is taught by the teacher. But in an online mode the teacher was totally clueless as she could see her students, she couldn’t understand whether they are actually attending the class or they are just present. So eliciting responses from the students has been the most difficult task I think.

5. Now as the school is in offline mode, how do manage sanitizing the campus?

Yes we are sanitizing the benches and desks, twice a day. We are fumigating the school. Our school runs in two shifts, so before the second shift comes in we sanitize it then only the children are allowed to come inside and enter the classrooms. There is one child sitting per desk. The children are still not allowed to play in the P.T. period, so we don’t have a P.T. period right now due to the Covid-19 rules and regulations.

6. How did the pandemic situations affect the curriculum or the academics of the students?  

I don’t think the curriculum has been affected as such, it’s just as I said before the give and take that happens in a classroom I has not happened very effectively in an online mode. Teachers have given their 100% and tried to reach out to the child, but the feedback from the children or the participation of the children has not been 100% that is the biggest lacunae and I think the lower classes and have suffered the most because the child who was attending nursery has suddenly entered 1st std. he/she has not undergone the training where the K.G. teacher will hold his/her hand and teach him to write, so that part is missing and this is a huge loss for this generation, because if your basics are not clear it would be very difficult to learn in the further classes.

7. What do you think promoting children without exams or online exams is a boon for them?

I think because it has been online, the entire attitude towards education has become very casual and I don’t think online exams are a very reliable method to assess the students. You can’t really verify anything, children resort to various malpractices, you cannot monitor them basically there are a lot of limitations while holding online exams. When the 10th std students were asked to appear for offline exams they were actually scared to write, most of them have confidence issues. These 2 years have been a setback for the teachers and the students.

8. So do you think government should have given a year gap to all the students instead of the online mode?

Yes, I think we could have taken a gap. These students are being labelled ‘You’re the 2020 Batch’ or ‘The Covid Batch’

9. What do you think government should work upon post Covid-19?

I think first and foremost we should have full-fledged school, I think Covid has taken a toll on financially & emotionally. Parents have gone through a lot of stress and financial crisis, but the school as an institution has also seen a lot of financial losses. Unfortunately all the policies that the government has made are in the favour of the parents. I wish that the government takes some steps to support the schools as an institution. After all, we are a private school and we need funds . We have 70% students who still have not paid the school fees, so if they could give us some directives as to how we could collect those fees, it would be helpful.

10. How did you manage to converse with the parents of the students?

Now we’d rather communicate in the offline mode.

11. Were there any fees payment issues from the parents side?

Absolutely, parents feel like they don’t owe anything to the school because the classes were conducted in an online mode. But they don’t understand the effort that the teacher has put in, on our part we have tried to give the best to the child.

12. What are the important functions as the Trustee? How would you prioritize them?

Of course academics comes first, training of the teachers, the curriculum. Are we up to the mark ? Are we up to date ? and then the overall administration and maintenance of the building, And like I told you my team is very supportive. We work together as a family. So there were initial hitches where communicating was a big issue, and I think everyone must have faced those in other schools also, but we sorted out things. I think the most important thing is clear communication for everything to function very smoothly. When there is transparency it is very easy to get things done and that is what we are working on.

13. Any comments on the (RTE) Right to Education policy of the Government?

RTE is a very good initiative started by the government because however poor or backward the child is he/she deserve to educate. Education is the only tool that will empower him/her to face the world. As a country if you have to progress education is the key.

14. Any short message for the students?

Students need to gear up now because schools have started. Also they need to commit themselves to studying now. Education cannot be taken casually. Throughout the pandemic period education has been neglected and suffered the most because it has been given the least priority, children need to really work and study hard because till 10th it is okay but beyond that you cannot sham studies. If you have to make a career if you have to make profession as a doctor you cannot sham your studies, you have to study and then only you can make a mark in life somewhere. Once the children understand the fact that they are not doing a favour by studying, they are studying for themselves, it is to gain knowledge, if they start putting efforts in that attitude they’ll be able to do something, if they only study because the teacher is asking them to, parents are asking them to, is not going to take them anywhere, it has to come from within, self motivation is really important.

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