Even after the government launched the Sikkim Edutech App to help students from Class 9-12 cope with the educational loss, the junior students and those in far-flung regions are still left with little assistance.
“I was distraught. The people in my village are mostly farmers, very poor. This makes education an even bigger priority for children in these areas than those in urban centres,” says Chhetri, a teacher at the VCGL Senior Secondary School in Ravangla.
Every day, Chhetri begins her tours of the village at 9 am, visiting her students “one by one” and taking offhand classes incorporating maths, science, English, and general knowledge. “The teachers were doing this arbitrarily. We decided to issue guidelines and make the system more structured,” says Director, Elementary Education, Bhim Thatal.
Additional Chief Secretary (Education) with the Sikkim government G S Upadhyay states that it was the poor connectivity in the state (both phone as well as Internet) that urged the government to hold the “homeschooling” program.
“It’s only in a few urban areas of Sikkim that parents own smartphones or tablets. So there is a glaring digital divide in these parts. There had to be a solution to this divide. Many teachers started this initiative to ensure that children kept up with their education. When we saw how successful this was, we decided to make it an official system last month,” he tells.
Nevika Kafley is an English teacher at the Senior Secondary school in Bermiok Tokal, South Sikkim. From 9 am till lunchtime, Kafley visits the homes of numerous students. Over the week, she reaches out to about 35 students between Classes 1 and 5.
“I spend about 20 minutes with each student. Every week, I collect their notebooks and write lessons for them, which they have to finish over the week. I also encourage the parents on what needs to be done,” says Kafley, concluding that the village has limited Internet services most of the time. Moreover, none of the parents in Bermiok Tokal own a smartphone.
To Sonora Chhetri, a mother of two in Samdong village, 40 km from Gangtok in East Sikkim district, the homeschooling system has brought a lot of change. Three times a week, Chhetri’s 9-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, along with three of her neighbors’ children, visit their teacher’s home.
“The classes start at 9 am and usually go on till 1 pm. On the days that they don’t have classes, the teacher sends us homework through WhatsApp and even calls us to check how much the children have finished. They get homework every day and give tests daily. We are poor people, and if it weren’t for these teachers, our children would have had no education at all,” she says, thankful for the teacher’s kindness and diligence.