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Band of government teachers reaches out to locked down village kids via WhatsApp

Six government teachers in Bakshi-ka-Talab on the outskirts of the Lucknow city have come together to reach out to rural children through WhatsApp, keeping them engaged at a time when schools are shut due to the lockdown. "Instead of sitting at home, we thought of doing something for our students who are from rural and poor backgrounds," said Anurang Singh Rathore, who is part of this group of primary school teachers.

Bakshi-Ka-Talab is an administrative block with 303 government primary schools, most of them up to class 5 only. Altogether, 22,000 children are enrolled in them. Nandini, also part of the group, said the teachers were initially unsure about how to go about contacting the students. "Then we started searching the school records for names of parents who have mobiles and tried to find out if they are on WhatsApp," the teacher said. "We started getting success after three weeks of our attempts and the number of children in our network is growing," she said. The six teachers identified 500 children across 60 villages in the block with someone in the family with a mobile phone. The parents with phones were contacted, and asked to get their kids involved in learning through WhatsApp.

The teachers have begun forwarding short videos, pictures and text through WhatsApp. Like the one with a recitation of the English alphabet and another on washing hands to beat coronavirus. "We succeeded in our efforts and the students are giving tremendous feedback", Rathore told PTI. The teachers cite the Earth Day painting completion on Wednesday as an example. "Over 400 kids from 55 villages sent their drawings on WhatsApp," said group members Priti Singh. "The drawings were stunning and reflected the creativity among the children, who drew on the impact of coronavirus, social distancing, use of sanitisers, etc," she said.

The kids will get their prizes once the schools open, she said. Another teacher, Santosh Mishra DC, said the perception about state-run schools should change. "Since the government primary schools are infamous for teachers not taking classes and for their poor resources, we wanted to do something at this point when everyone is locked down inside their home," he said. Block Education Officer Satish Kumar Tripathi said the network of teachers in his area has adopted a novel method to deliver entertainment with a message to children.

"We will be adding more children in the network in the days to come. Presently those connected are asked to share the content with their brothers and sisters and tell them what they have learnt," he said.

Schools and other educational institutions were ordered shut in many parts of the country even before the Centre announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.







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