Published: 05th September 2020
Here's why this Telangana teacher's belief that education must go on is turning kids into profs during the pandemic
The concept of a Village Learning Circle, where children in remote areas assume the role of a teacher and teach children nearby, is quite revolutionary
I don't want to stop my education. It was this thought that motivated A Saritha and kept her going during her tough times. This 42-year-old completed her BEd and only in 2018 was she selected to be an English teacher in Telangana Social Welfare Residential School in RK Puram, Malakpet. A teacher who is so passionate about her education, how could she have let a pandemic put a stop to the education of her precious students?
What VLC is all about
That's how the Village Learning Circle (VLC) came to be. This programme was to make up for digital education's shortcomings, especially when it came to those who lack the resources. Those children who were in class VII and VIII; had communication and teaching skills which were above average and lived in far off areas, this teacher chose them to take charge and teach students who lived in their area and had no digital connection to the world. It was from July 11 that this saga started. "We selected students and motivated them to gather children, not more than two to five in number, from classes II to VI, and teach them basics," says the teacher.
And when the teacher says basics, she really means the basics. Reading skills and grammar in English, addition and subtraction in Math and so on. And all this was done via activity-based learning, which made it fun both for the student-teacher who are teaching and the students who are learning. For example, imagine the popular game duck in the water. So instead of sitting in a circle, in a socially-distanced manner, of course, and saying duck in the water, she encourages them to recite tables. Similarly, hibiscus flowers are smeared over paper and it serves as a litmus strip. When a lemon falls on it, it turns blue. "It wasn't that simple though, before every class, I mentor the student-teachers over the phone and correct them then and there.
During a class | (Pic: A Saritha)
Here and there, pretty much everywhere
There are VLCs in Vanasthalipuram, LB Nagar and Alkapuri which the teacher manages to visit as well, weekly twice. And the VLCs in Vikarabad, Ranga Reddy and Suryapet are mentored even more thoroughly over the phone. For the classes Saritha ma'am isn't able to attend, she asks student-teachers to record the class and send it to her. "The direct benefits for students is obvious but even for the student-teachers, their concepts are strengthened and their leadership and teaching skills improve a lot," explains the Nalgonda-born teacher and adds that, "The point is, if we leave students on their own and don't continue with their academics, it's hard to get them back on track. So it is important that they are continuously engaged." And the activities? They are the cherry on the cake. In this way, 20 children are being engaged.
Student-teachers also maintain records of the concepts they covered and students get simple assignments on a daily basis, which are either oral or written. Individually, Saritha ma'am is helping four children who can't even come to VLCs via phone calls. Every day, for ten minutes, she gets on an audio call with them and asks them to read a passage. "I correct their pronunciation then and there," she says. In between, when the Corona cases were soaring in Telangana, the parents grew even more reluctant of VLCs. That's when this teacher encouraged them with the same mantra she has always followed, Education mustn't stop.
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