Covid19: As lockdown eases, students, teachers yearn to get back to school

Aashi Bagaria Mumbai | Updated on June 07, 2021

They feel physical interaction makes learning more effective and enjoyable

Nitya Doshi, a 15-year-old student of a private school in Mumbai was attending online classes since March 2020. She, like all the others was affected by COVID-19, and has had to adapt to the digital infrastructure. “This shift has made communication with classmates and teachers extremely difficult. I find myself lacking motivation since online lessons can get monotonous,” she says. Eager to get back to the classroom she adds, “I would like to go back since online isn’t the same, the physical environment makes learning more effective and enjoyable.”

Nitya is not the only one that shares this sentiment. Farida Yusuf, a student at a boarding school in Mumbai voices her opinion the countless challenges she has been facing. “The whole atmosphere that came with living in a dorm, going to class on campus vanished as we entered our academic year online,” she says. And there is a lot more where this comes from. Students are dealing with heavy fatigue, overwhelmed by the obstacles thrown at them. This warrants a complete lifestyle change, and not one that is particularly welcome.

Teachers too challenged

The students are not the only ones struggling. Numerous teachers from prominent Mumbai schools are also not comfortable with what is being deemed as the ‘new normal.’ A teacher, Natasia Almeida says, “Online school only works for a certain demographic that have access to appropriate technology and even for those who have the provisions, it lacks the personal touch.” She believes that while online education does work for a small populace, all it does is the bare minimum in teaching the school curriculum. Students and faculty alike find a void when it comes to additional learning that stems from personal, face to face interactions. This teacher has had to deal with massive changes, and reinvent her teaching methods due to the situation. “In an online setup I struggle to keep track of every student, resulting in reduction of participation, and students having difficulty to hold sustained interest.” She sees a disconnect in students, a gap she is struggling to bridge through just a screen.

Another teacher, Zeba Contractor, talks of her personal challenges, “I feel in the beginning it was so sudden, there was so much emotional turmoil. shifting resources to an online setup was the initial challenge.” However, after working out the initial kinks in the system she discovered countless online tools that could come in handy. She feels a form of blended learning may take place for higher education, especially with the added advantage of convenient technology. But this is not enough to convince her to remain online. “I don’t think online schools have increased efficiency. Sure, there is no commute, but classes taken out are still integral if not content heavy,” she adds.

From a financial standpoint, schools say they are struggling. A senior coordinator from a school says “The cost factor has increased, with the purchase of multiple software for every faculty member and student. Electricity still has to be paid for, as well new digital devices being bought.” Non-essential staff still needs to be paid, making online learning more expensive than one might think. From an administrative standpoint, the situation does not look ideal either, with the coordinator stating that malpractice also seems to be on the rise. There is no real winner in the current situation, and if given the opportunity, the unanimous consensus is to go back to some form of physical education.

(The writer is interning with Business Line's Mumbai Bureau)

Published on June 07, 2021

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