A nationwide lock-down had been imposed by the government of India On 24 March 2020 to control the spread of corona virus. Due to which all services and shops remained closed and all educational institutions, training, research institutes remained suspended except pharmacies, hospitals, banks, grocery stores and other essential services.
On May 30, the lock-down came to an end. The government announced lock-down phase in the country was over and the unlocking process started in a phased manner. Now services are being resumed in a phased manner. But the educational institutions continue to remain closed, causing severe problems for the students to get proper learning guidance.
But by realising this problem, a group of students from Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology (VSSUT) in Burla have launched an initiative ‘Unlock Education: The New Face of Knowledge’ to guide the school students amidst the covid crisis free of cost.
We spoke to Hridayananda Prusty, who is the founder member of the initiative and also a BTech (Metallurgy) student of the university, to understand how they work.
What is the ‘unlocked education’ strategy during lock-down?
The motto of the initiative ‘unlock education’ is education for all. I started it on July 3 along with two of my batch mates Ankita Meher and Ayushi Swain. Subsequently, a core team of 12 students of VSSUT was formed.
First, we created 3 separate WhatsApp groups for students of standard VIII, IX and X of BSE, ICSE and CBSE boards. We then tried to contact the siblings of our group members and shared our numbers on social media to reach out to the students. And, the school students started joining our WhatsApp group after we approached them.
Students then started posting their doubts on the group, which is explained by any of the members either over audio or video call or through video lectures on YouTube. The team also conducts group classes over video call for different subjects. The team members are active from 6 am to 1 am everyday and respond to every student.
If someone asks some question in this interval of time, we solve it in 30 minutes. But sometimes we the school students get delayed responses from us because we are also students and sometimes we also prepare for our exams.
Now, the team of ‘Unlock Education’ has over 60 team members comprising students from different colleges with academic expertise in various subjects. We started with only five school students but now at least 200 students, including 30 students of Odisha Board, 80 of CSE and rest of CBSE, are availing guidance under the initiative.
How do you coordinate all these things?
We have two different groups, one for the student and the other for the teacher. Suppose a student sends his doubts on the WhatsApp group, we immediately forward this message to the teacher group. Then the teacher sends the solution to the student. If the student fails to understand, then a member of our group makes a call to the student and clarifies his/her doubts. Even after that, if he / she does not understand, then in the third step, we take a class through ‘Zoom Video call’ so that the students understand properly.
Apart from solving the students’ questions, what else do you do under ‘unlocked education’?
We do a skill development class once in a week. We have named it ‘Unlock Skill Scheme’. Under this, to develop the interpersonal skills of the students, we make them practice essay, debate, art and many other activities. We also take unit tests of students every 15 days.
We know that some students cannot afford an Android phone. So we are trying to introduce a new scheme ‘Resume Education’. Under this scheme, a student will be able to read without the help of a phone. We are now preparing a database of students of slum areas. Then we will try to reach the student through a member of our group who will be near the student’s house and he / she will guide the students of the slum area.
Poor mobile network has emerged as hindrance for e-learning at many places. Do you think that your process of online education can reach every student?
Many schools and colleges have started the process of e-learning after the lock-down was implemented. But, Odisha is a state where network is a problem in many places. So, students are facing problems to get education.
In our process one can study offline also. They can give us a call to our contact number 8249462667 through which we will guide the students and clarify his/her doubts.
Moreover, let me clarify that we do not teach the students but we provide knowledge support to the students. The whole process is conducted in a familial atmosphere. They call us brother / sister. Many students can’t ask questions and express their doubt in front of the teacher in fear. Here they can ask any question, be it about their life or about their study.