Ma’am आवाज नहीं आ रही (Ma’am, you are not audible) Life in the new classroom

We have been a part of this sit-at-home routine for over six months, waiting for that one day where the news channels say, out loud, “we are safe now, let’s go back to our old lives.”. The lockdown was Announced so suddenly that it did not leave people witch any other choice but to transition into the ‘sit at home and work situation.’ While being stuck in this situation, everybody tried to find beneficial ways to pass the time; some learned to cook, some learned to dance, or some painted another Mona Lisa. It began as something temporary, but, eventually, we made this situation our new familiar. People woke up late, ate all the time, and relaxed like a vacation Hawaii. Finally, people started utilizing their time, taking online classes, working from home (including internships), and starting school from home. The relaxed students now have to sit for 3-6 hours every day right in front of their smartphones and laptops to attend classes. The classes are straight-up boring. The teacher usually has a hard time with technology, and the students take an advantage to sleep through the lectures without the teacher knowing. Students are unaware of the strategies and skills while sitting in front of the screen to attend school. While this seems familiar, some students find it hard to avoid the chaos at home and focus on what is being taught in class. The network issues determine the attendance now. Every class begins with one person who could not connect to the previous class and now has to explain to the teacher his absence.

“why didn’t you attend your class, Armaan?”

 “Ma’am, Network issues, I could not connect to the class.”

 “Everyday seems to be some sort of network issue with you, no exempt given.”

 “Sorry, Ma’am”

 

Even though this situation is a part of everyone’s class, it remains more prevalent for those who live in technologically less advanced areas or with less technological resources. I have been interning with India Vision Foundation, an NGO, where I was in interactions with 13 children from vulnerable families. These children don’t come from the best and wealthiest households but have families who work hard to battle daily challenges. And one of their new challenges is to provide the children with smart devices (phones and laptops) not just for games anymore, but for schooling. While some of them have managed with the internet and smartphones, many didn’t. While I have had many sessions where I met these children virtually, students explained all the difficulties they face while attending online classes. While the network issues remained a common problem, many people expressed their concerns about not understanding the concepts correctly through online media. The amounts of homework increased, and so did the number of distractions. Many of these children live in small houses that may not have multiple rooms or even larger spaces. This tends to devoid the child of his personal space while attending the classes leading to the noise behind. Children who have siblings have a tough time following all the sessions because they tend to clash with their sibings’s sessions. This is usually experienced by those who have only one smartphone available to them.

 

Over the top, these students now have to appear for online examination. Online examination remains similar to in-class exams regarding the type of questions or the correction pattern. The thing that varies the most is how seriously students consider it as their present-day reality. Many students may take It lightly since the invigilation will be at its weakest. Yet some may study seriously to ace the exams.  In present-day scenarios, various schools have switched to online examinations to cope with the lost time and cover the never-ending syllabus. Being at home is not the most suitable, distraction-free zone for the online classes; moreover, giving an exam in such a setting becomes even worse.

 

Nevertheless, the students still loath the examinations. The idea of exams has always managed to evoke stress and anxiety among the students. While a little tension arises the motivation level, a student may still find smart yet evil ways to benefit from the Covid-19 situation. Conducting these exams varies from school to school, but the teacher tries their best to develop methods for students not to cheat.

 

Many schools opt for two device examinations where students have to use one device for invigilation and others, which may have the question paper. This sort of invigilation may be feasible for those students who have the luxury of two smart and technologically advanced devices and an excellent working broadband connection. But the students, especially those from the lower financial strata, may not be the best candidates for these exams. Moreover, even if the students may not worry about their preparation for the exams, they will worry about not connecting to the online meetings that too on two different devices. Some schools may opt for sharing screen while students have to leave their camera switched on, but this also remains problematic for those students who use smartphones to connect to classes. While no proper solution comes the way for students and the school, the school refuses to consider formative assessment as an alternative to exams. The child may still learn something new, and writing an essay can help with the language.

 

Day by day, everyone tried to learn something new to surpass this pandemic situation. They were still hoping for the world to heal. Students will always have to attend school, and exams will never be an escape.

 

About Author:

Navya Kumar is a student of BA Applied Psychology from Chinmaya University, Kerala. Navya feels that her internship with India Vision Foundation has helped her to experience something that she had never done before, it has not only helped her to be able to recognize & understand her strengths and weaknesses but also enabled her to be able to work on them to achieve her goals in life.

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