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Corona Crises and Online Schooling: That Missing Human Touch – By Binny Yadav

How Corona Crises and Bois Locker Room Case has compelled us to think about missing human touch in online schooling 

Ajit, a painter by profession and Suman, his wife, till now shared one android phone between themselves and their two teenage school-going sons. Because of single android phone the children were not able to catch up with the online schools which has become compulsory because of lockdowns due to COVID 19. The children alternated the facilities among themselves. After struggling with the online classes for over a month the family could buy another android phone that too a second hand.

The couple now reserves their important phone calls for the evening hours as both their phones are engaged with children’s online classes. Although the couple is happy that they could arrange the money during these tough times of corona crises and get the phone which they think is an investment for the education of their children, Ajit, who is illiterate himself, has some other worries too. He has been following recent television reports about the internet misuse by the young and teenage, school going children in Bois Locker Room case. Suicide by a young child in one such case has terrified him. He spoke to the teachers of his children but wasn’t satisfied as he has no clue how to keep a track on what and how children are engaged in phone whole day. Besides online classes there are projects and works which children are supposed to submit online daily.

This is not the worry of only Ajit, who is illiterate and wants the best schooling for his children but also the worry of every parent whose children are engaged in online schooling ever since online schooling started in India due to lockdowns. These children have an easy and continuous access to internet and wi-fi which is giving nightmares to the parents. For parent of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) children, worries are multi fold vis a vis online schooling during Corona crises. On one hand they have to struggle for a smooth and uninterrupted internet for these online classes due to affordability issues related to internet and devices like phone, computer, laptops etc, keeping a track on the activities of these young children has become a bigger challenge for them.

Although the Child Right Activists and NGOs like Justice For All, have pleaded to the court to arrange for facilities like computer and laptops for poor category students so that students  of EWS also get access to education at par with children of affluent families but one issue which puts every parent, rich or poor in single category is the worry towards the long hours of internet access on the pretext of schooling.

Revelation of the case related to indecent indulgence of children on Instagram group ‘Bois Locker Room’, which majorly involved school going teenagers has shaken every parent, rich or poor. Both these segments of parent have common as well as different worries. Easy and continuous access to internet to these tender-age children is a common worry of every parent where the children can easily be lured or pushed into something for which they hardly understand the repercussion. While the schools have tried to communicate and counsel the parents and the students regarding the repercussions and the ways to deal and handle the internet access of children which has become a necessity these days parents have tough times in handling the internet overload for the children.

EWS parents usually have poor educational status and in most cases their relationship with children is not very open. There hardly is any open discussion on issues like sex, drugs and other indulgences which may be harm full for young children. Many of these parents have a tough time in understanding whether the child is involved in online schooling or misusing the internet. Neither the father nor the mother has guts to initiate an open discussion regarding the use of internet nor do many of these parents have knowledge about how to track the activity record.

One such mother of a 10-year-old boy got a shock of her life when she had police on her door knocking and informing her that her son was involved in online betting few months back. Well-to-do parents have other worries as there is so much availability of the facilities in form of multiple access to internet devices making it difficult to track online activities. Most of these parents are too busy to check frequently how their children are misusing the internet access. Although majority of these educated parents share an open and frank communication with their children too many facilities have become a challenge to restrain. For parents it is tougher to track the internet indulgence and many such parent have no clue how much to allow and where to restrict. “At the most we can restrict access to Netflix or other web options but Wi fi or internet in phone is a necessity”, complains one such parent.

Priya Chhokra, G D Goenka World School
Priya Chhokra, G D Goenka World School

Teachers who are involved in smart classes say that internet is an important part of education today and cannot be taken away even while the physical schooling is on but there has to be smarter ways to dealing with children’s indulgences with smart gadgets. Majority of the teachers feel that dependency on internet should be only restricted to emergency situations and for the projects and computer related teachings. For Priya Chhokra, English facilitator (IBDP), G D Goenka world school, Gurugram, human touch in education is a complete balancer. “We have been into online education for many years but online education should be a means only during times of emergencies and should not be the continuous and permanent process of teaching.

The relationship between a student and the teacher in school helps creates a balance in the schooling years,” emphasises Priya, adding that the bond between a teacher and students is lacking in online schooling and this bonding is even more important in higher classes. Human touch, according to her is extremely important for a complete education which is lacking in online classes.

Tarranum Cawdhary, Headmistress, BLS International School
Tarranum Cawdhary, Headmistress, BLS International School

Education, for many teachers is just not the knowledge about the subject but a complete personality building. The role of school for many teachers is bigger and greater than even the parents in many areas. For Tarranum Chaudhary, Vice President, Pvt School and Children Welfare Association and Headmistress-BLS School, Hathras, who clearly see a bigger role of school and teachers in the formative years of any child says that internet access to the students should be strictly subject to emergencies and under the strict watch of parents and teachers. “For younger children their class teachers are the role models and the teachers have a bigger role in understanding every emotional and psychological development taking place in her students which is only possible through one-on-one indulgence”, she feels. “Even if there are times that we have to resort to online schooling teachers should be in touch with every student individually to know and understand their well beings”, she emphasises.

Referring to incidents like “Instagram Chat group” these teachers and principals are very clear that parents have a bigger responsibility to check the indulgences because students do not have too much opportunities of such activities during school hours. According to Tarranum Chaudhary, teachers’ role is very crucial in observing and checking the behaviour changes and the change in friend circle of the child in school. The principals of almost every school during their online counselling post the “Instagram Chat case” conveyed to the parents to come forward and share any behaviour change and reactions of children without any fear of stigmatisation so that problem can be handled before it is too late.

Parents, teachers and the counsellors insist that school-going age of any child is a very tender age and needs to be handled delicately. Rich or poor, the concerns are common i.e how to bring in balance between the need of the computer access and regulation. Every mistake at this age is small but leaves a scar and a big dent on the soft tissue of child’s emotion. There is no denying the fact that the big bad world may have many attractions but these little hearts should be dealt with a healing touch and not be stigmatised and pointed out even if they have wandered. The parents, the school, the community, and the government should all come together in nurturing these beautiful innocent and naughty minds. That is how we learn to grow. They need to be protected and given a chance.

Online education too has many challenges and has countless advantages but as they say every big thing has some price to pay, in this case the price is too big if things are not monitored carefully. it is time that schools, parents and the government, as a policy should come together to device the methodologies where urgencies for online schooling should not loosen that human touch and student-teacher bonding is tightened. These young turfs are the guardians of our future. We have the bigger responsibilities of nurturing them and safeguarding them.

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