Mumbai: Fast forward to about 20 years from now -- about 3-3.5 crore students (give or take a few lakhs) in India are likely to graduate without ever having stepped into an actual Std I classroom for that first whiff of school life. In two decades, the pandemic will probably be a distant memory, but these kids will go through life never having been initiated into the traditional ritual of ‘going to school’ and this is more or less the story across the world. Today (June 15), these kids will have ‘skipped’ a grade, so to speak, and will directly find themselves in Std II or Std III. If one were to ask them how their Class I experience was, they are likely to say it mostly involved sitting ‘in attendance’ before an impersonal computer.
The Free Press Journal spoke to some such kids in Mumbai, who said they were eager to see a school for the first time because while online classes had their own charms, an actual, physical school is quite something else and they would like to find out.
“I am excited to go to school now,” said Yatharth Bhavika Hitesh Dand, a student of Class II at the Guardian School in Mumbai, who has never been to a physical school before. “I am looking forward to going to school. At home, for the last two years, I have enjoyed writing and reading. I used to finish my schoolwork on time. I also participated in extracurricular activities such as mental math, art and craft, phonics, and other subjects that made me feel like I was in school.” Yatharth added that he would wake up on time for school, for sure.
Nyra D, a Mumbai-based Class II student, said she has missed what would have been kindergarten and the Std I at a real school. “I missed going to school, and am sure I would have enjoyed doing my homework with friends rather than alone, the way it was for the last two years.” Nyra is honest about admitting that her parents assisted her with schoolwork, and equally candidly confesses that while her online classes were just for four hours, “now I will have to sit in a classroom for 6-7 hours, which may be difficult in the beginning”.
Neha Nagda, whose child will enter Class III this year, stated, “The most important thing was for them to grasp the notion of online education. My daughter’s school had a rule that she had to sit in school uniform and attend classes from the beginning. She had additional weekly sessions in PE, dance, and music, so she didn’t miss school all that much, and we had set up her study table and books in her room to provide her a school-like atmosphere at home.”
She went on to say, “We used to host virtual zoom sessions for them so that they could enjoy themselves informally. And now I believe she will enjoy going to school; the only challenge will be getting up early and long hours.”
Teachers will now have to put in extra effort to acclimatize kids to the school schedule. “Now that students are back to the pre-Covid schooling days,” says Nazema Shaikh, a primary school teacher, “it will be a task to make students sit for long hours. These students are frequently sleepy early in the day and have their heads bowed. However, they will gradually adjust to the classroom environment,” she observed.
Principals across the city, on the other hand, are stepping forward to fill the void and ensure that these pupils relive their Class I experience when school reopens.
“All classes, including Grade 1 were taken successfully online through the Ryan OS platform. However, for Grade 2 kids, who missed a few sessions along with the new-admission students, we have identified the learning gaps and to bridge these gaps, special programmes, called ‘Introducing Ryan Recovery Program’ are being conducted. Topics were being identified and academic heads have pooled in necessary inputs,” said Ms Anjali Bowen, Principal, Ryan International School, Kandivli.
“We have a set of strategies to ensure a smooth transition from online to the physical platform. The emotional and mental well-being of the students was of the utmost importance and the main point of focus for the school. The teachers had planned various strategies to facilitate student engagement and make the transition as seamless as possible,” said Mrs Saiesha Mansukhani, Junior School Head, Aditya Birla World Academy.
“Games and imaginative play are held to make learning sessions interesting and interactive for these children. Children will be encouraged to express themselves through art and craft activities. The emotional well-being of our children is of utmost importance. The learners have now adapted well to a physical school,” she added.
(Figures quoted are from official government documents updated till 2021)