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#online school

it’s becoming very difficult to be motivated to study or do basically anything in the middle of this chaos. don’t get me wrong, studying is a privilege and can be really magical, but with thousands dying on a daily basis and all the bad news going on lately, it’s hard to keep up a progress and a sense of future.

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Literally this whole class could have been an email

They made me wake up early

Only to login and see the teacher say goodbye for 10 minutes cuz it was supposed to be “the last class” and she was gonna cancel the final exam

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I have to say I’m overwhelmed by online university… How the fuck am I supposed to make a shortfilm alone in my room with all the paperwork and all during covid? I need locations and actors and a cameraman (I’m not good at shooting) and I only have about 2 weeks to do this and I’m so stressed about it omg.

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quarantine schedule!! :D

- wake up/get ready

- attend zooms

-try to do work

- cannot focus on work for more than 2 seconds

- doomscroll

- stress

- self hatred + 10 babeyyyy

- doomscroll

- stress

- stare at work unable to do anything because my brain has dissolved into a cloud

- zone out/doomscroll

- actually i’m constantly zoned out no matter what i’m doing here

- laugh at literally nothing for no reason

- doomscroll

- stress

- hit my head in the desk cuz i’ve been trying to focUS FOR 3 FUCKING HOURS JESUS FUCK

- eat lunch 2 hours late because i forgot to earlier

- doomscroll

- look at screen not even trying to work anymore but if i do anything else i’m gonna feel so bad about not doing work i’ll be nauseous

- stress

- doomscroll but hate myself more for it this time

- “well something must be wrong with you!” says my family, who despite this still refuse to let me see any sort of professional because they “hate those people on ‘crazy pills’”

- actually try to work but fail

- stress

- respond to teacher emails about how i’m being lazy and not working (i’m just catching up, i’ll be passing in a jiffy, teach! ^_^)

- stress

- eat dinner

- doomscroll

- stress

- zone out trying to work

- it’s 2 am

- try and fail to work

- fail at sleeping because i’m too stressed to calm my brain down for 2 seconds

- and sleep! ^_^

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During the closure of schools due to pandemic from March 2020 till date (End Oct 2020), I have heard how classes are being held and attended from home at least in Metros. I am reminded of my school days during1954-66 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

My first school was a family run primary school in the residential complex that we lived. I studied there as it was convenient to attend and my elder sister also went to the same school. It was housed in a bungalow with four to five rooms, each housing one standard. It was from 11 am to 5 pm. It was a traditional school with standard syllabus. The school was co-ed and we sat on floor. Our school bag had a book or two and a slate (black stone) and white chalk. We walked to the school. The medium of instruction was Gujarati

Then I went to a special primary school run by Sarabhais (Vikram Sarabhai’s family). The school had four classes, one each for one standard. Each class had 10-12 students only. The school started at 8.30 am and till 4 pm. On arrival all children would be given a glass of milk and then academic lessons would start till lunch at 12 noon. The children brought roti/chapati from home but all else was served by the school-Dal, Rice, Vegetables, Papad, pickles etc. Children from class 4 normally managed the lunch service, though food was cooked by others. School was co-ed and we hardly carried any books or other items in the school bag except a box of roti/chapati. I travelled by the city bus to commute to school. The medium of instruction was Gujarati.

After lunch, the non-academic activities were the main focus. These included music (mainly folk), folk dance (garba/dandiya), painting, carpentry, stitching/tailoring etc. the teachers of high caliber came to teach these special skills or hobby. Our music teacher was an AIR (All India Radio) artiste. We also undertook projects of a long duration. For example, in carpentry class we built Sam’s Cabin on the treetop (the school had a large area). We also staged plays in open air once a year. Each and every student must participate in the play and hence they were selected accordingly. One was “Alibaba and Forty Thieves”, and another was “Gulliver’s travel to pigmy land” (a shadow play).

The school also imparted general knowledge in the most effective way. We once slept in the school so that we could be taken to an observatory at 3 am to see the sky and the stars. We were once taken to the Municipal office to see the model of Nehru Bridge under construction (before1960) followed by a visit to the riverbed to see the construction. Children were encouraged to explore and most of us would sit on the wall (on the riven bank) just watch the Sabarmati river in flood. We were allowed to climb trees and play with our teachers. I found it to be a good place for an all around development.

Then I was admitted to a popular Gujarati medium school which boasted of the large area (I think 300 acres or more) and it followed Gandhian philosophy. Our uniform was from Khadi. The trust was Jain. The school was co-ed and I commuted by city bus or walked the 3 km short route on some days with other students and a teacher. Theschool was from 10.40 am to 5.10 pm with two short breaks. Saturday was half day- 7.30 am to 11 am.

The middle school (std 5 to 7) was in a separate building about 500 meters from either entry. We sat on floor with a wooden stool in front. The school bag had textbooks, notebooks and a pencil box along with a snacks box. In addition to academic classes we had optional selected non-academic courses. Music was compulsory and my weakest subject. One could choose from music, painting, stitching/tailoring or agriculture. I opted for agriculture. I was given a piece of land (5 x 10 ft) and allowed to grow vegetables etc. The vegetables were available for sale and I used to take some home.

The high school (std 8 to 11) was in a larger building near the main gate. The compass box was added to books and notebooks. We used to write with an ink pen.The classes had a bench. Between these buildings was a huge playground for volleyball, kho-kho and kabaddi etc.We had a prayer hall covered but open from sides where all students would gather first thingin the morning and pray. At this gathering, we were also able to enjoy cultural programs based on the festivals and some speeches by leading persons- politicians, writers, thinkers, and ex-students.

During the entire school years, I attended classes regularly and was not permitted to attend any private tuition, In any case private tuition was not so popular then, My father insisted that I asked all my doubts to the teachers in the class or after class in the teachers (staff) room. I hardly recall any parents’ teacher meeting. Strangely I had not spoken to any girl student at my school or class throughout the eleven years, though it was co-ed. I loved outdoor games and in the eight standard I joined a hockey coaching center (outside) run by an ex-India player. This led me to go for state school level hockey tournament and participated in all India school meet in Shillong in Feb,1966.

My daughter went to an international school in Japan and her experience was different than schooling in India. She walked to school everyday for 20 minutes and carried only an umbrella and lunch on some days. She played basketball, hockey, and volleyball. She would go ice skating or on over night trips to gain knowledge not just from textbooks but from experiences. When she came back to study in India, she found the education system hard and competitive and teachers had minimal interest in teaching except for scoring high marks.

I now will attempt to compare the above school life with present day school life in metros before COVID-19 (March 2020). Though I have no first-hand experience of it, I have gathered it from parents of school going kids. Most of these go to a private school and not municipal or govt school in various parts of the globe.

Before COVID-19 struck, the school time was 8 am to 2 pm and probably five days a week. Kids must carry a huge/heavy school bag containing water bottle, books, notebooks, compass box, lunch box (for two breaks). Kids do use ball point pen or gel pen. The school bag weighs a lot and there are complaints of kids, but no solution seems to be in sight. Most kids go to school by school bus or auto-rickshaw or dropped by parents. Hardly anybody walks to school. A lot of focus is on academic work and homework. Most schools lack a playground. Some schools do encourage extra-curricular activities, but most kids take up extra-curricular activities because of the parents or peer pressure. Some govt or municipal schools run two shifts to make maximum use of the infrastructure- school building. Most classes have 50 children in each room.

Many of the schools have annual day and they are a huge burden on parents both in terms of time and expenses. Most items on annual day celebrations lack heritage or folk influence on dance or music or singing.  Most kids (also their teachers) do watch tv and are influenced by its content. Many kids have the luxury of travel domestically or internationally with their parents on holidays. I do not see many activities among school going kids in residential complexes. Rural schools might still be following the historical timing (11 am to 5 pm) and the syllabus with almost poor teachers.

After March 22, 2020 the schools were closed, and students and teachers were encouraged to attend online classes. In last six months (till Oct end) the schools are closed and online classes have become the routine.

In metros, many private schools are actively following the online class concept. I understand the online class can be attended provided one has a laptop or a tablet or a smart mobile with adequate data and speed for Wi-Fi connection. The classes are for four hours a day. The homework is also given online and submitted online. In most cases projects given seem to be done by parents and not children which is not the best way to learn. While writing exams adults at home keep prompting the child to ensure high score /marks are achieved. Teaching a child short cuts or to cheat is not beneficial in the long run. Parents forget that getting marks above 90% should not be the only aim for the child.

Many families are facing the shortage of hardware as the parent or parents attend office from home (WFH) and they need the same hardware- laptop or tablet and a strong WiFi connection. If there is more than one child attending class/school from home the shortage of hardware and infrastructure is felt more and is also a financial burden too.

Poor people are finding it hard to attend classes online. My domestic help has three children going to school and that is either municipal or govt school. They also hold classes online. But the poor family has only two mobiles and only one is smart. Her husband is a driver but has lost his job.

I dare not imagine what is happening at rural schools and their classes with no infrastructure like WiFi connectivity or smart mobile at home. Some may not have even electricity at home. I hope that large IT firms instead of running schools in rural India under the name of NGO’s should have ensured a good e-learning system but that seems like a dream. This would have been helpful during these times and need not depend on poor quality teachers.

In all the above activities the major problem is that children have lost physical touch with school, class, and teacher. They surely miss outdoor activities (sports etc.) with their classmates. They also must be missing the cultural activities on the festivals.

The mental stress of being confined to a residence for so long must be very real and parents must be finding it difficult to attend to it among their children and themselves.

Conclusion…….

I do believe that old time classes at school and freedom to mingle/play with classmates and children from neighborhood were great contributors to develop a child’s all faculties. The emphasis was outdoor activities and non-academic interests to be followed. The child was not stressed with pressures from parents, siblings, or peer day in and out.

Prior to lockdown due to pandemic, the metro school going kid was stressed with many issues- get up early, catch the bus or transport or do homework or dress properly with or without makeup for girls, etc. Parents were also stressed to see that their child is not lagging only in academic pursuit but also otherwise.

After lock down the situation has worsened for the child. The child is confined to the four walls of the residence with same family members and has no chance to go outdoors. (recent relaxation may permit going out but many parents do not want to take the risk). Outdoor activities are almost none and 24x7 the child is using handheld devices –Laptop, tablet, or smart phone to do schoolwork and to play games, also to see cartoons or other entertaining content on TV.

I pray for early release of restrictions due to COVID-19 and restoration of schools to normal working in general and in rural areas in particular.

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Doctor 1: Our concurrence today is a bit low. I think the students are already in holiday mode.

Student: *Joking* Here I am, with a sherbet cocktail in my hand.

Doctor 2: Haha give us some.

Doctor 1: That drink used moonshine, right?

Doctor 2: No, sweet wine.

Doctor 1: *Disgusted*

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