We don’t need no education

| Updated on July 10, 2020 Published on July 10, 2020

As teachers and students get together online, a parent recounts the many bitter lessons she has learnt

Dear Editor,

As I sit down to write this letter to you, the dishes in the sink have piled up, looking quite like the leaning tower of Pisa. My boss has called for an impromptu video conference. And my six-year-old’s online class has just begun.

While the pandemic has been terrible for humanity, this letter is to make a case for working parents of schoolgoing children who have to deal with a hoax called online schooling.

Allow me to explain. On a typical day, my child’s class begins at 9am, exactly when I am expected to punch in and get on with my work calls. This is the time when I have to brainstorm — and let me tell you, only parents like me know the literal meaning of that word. During this hour you will find me stuffing idlis into the child’s tightly sealed mouth while her classmates are in the midst of an Om chanting and Gayatri Mantra session. It is a part of the school’s morning prayers, you see. Moral values, tick.

I pin her unruly hair as 30-odd children roll their eyes vigorously on Microsoft Teams, following the teacher’s instructions of doing eye exercises before lessons begin. They could all be rounded up and cast in a sequel to that horror film The Exorcist. Physical education, tick.

This is followed by 10 minutes of “Good Morning, Ma’am!” uttered by each child, as the teacher responds to everyone individually. Personalised attention, tick.

By now, 20 minutes out of the 45-minute class are over. For the next 20 minutes, the second-graders are to be taught English, math, art and craft or something else. The poor art teacher, racing against time, goes from introducing the children to primary and secondary colours to dissecting the abstract art of Pablo Picasso. At the end of the class, when the teacher asks her students to take five minutes and present a drawing based on her lesson, one little fellow switches on his camera and proudly says, “Done, ma’am!”. He holds up his drawing, which looks suspiciously like Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Creativity, tick.

I can only imagine the child’s parents — and perhaps grandparents, too — on all fours, colouring furiously in his art book, all to get a thumbs-up emoji from the teacher. The chat box is soon filled with images of perfect drawings. “Any questions,” the teacher asks in the last 60 seconds of the class. No-Ma’ams boom in unison. Interactiveness, tick.

In the first month of the lockdown, when schools went online, several parents’ forums got together to demand a fee reduction, given the zero operation expenses incurred by schools on their premises. But most schools are reluctant to do anything that resembles a fee cut, unless asked at gunpoint by the government. During this time, my child’s school, like many others, has gone out of its way to prove that impactful learning is happening through the digital medium. No fee cut, tick.

Earlier this week, we had our first parent-teacher meet over a WhatsApp video call. “Based on your child’s interactiveness in the chat box and her homework uploads we see that she is doing well. Do you have queries,” the teacher asked impatiently. She had 30 more video calls to make. When I asked for some help with Hindi, the teacher said she would use the weekend to teach me grammar syntaxes over the phone so that I could teach my child at leisure! No payment for substitute teacher, tick.

The only time the online class begins to make sense to me is in the last five minutes — when the teacher raises her two hands and throws them down while bursting into a fit of laughter. That’s laughter therapy, you see, and it is meant to de-stress teachers and kids alike. But it is hard for parents to laugh — especially when they know that during this pandemic, it is the school that is laughing all the way to the bank.

Yours brainstormingly,

A frazzled parent

(Yours Sincerely is a weekly record of grudges and grumblings from an anonymous reader)

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 10, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor