29 March, 2022

[Survivor series] Students in my village struggled without online facilities in the early pandemic days, but did not give up

This week, we introduce you to the story of a schoolteacher named Pushpa Panwar, who found a way to teach the children in her village despite the pandemic conditions.

My name is Pushpa Panwar, I am 40-years-old and work as a community volunteer/para teacher at Himmotthan, an initiative of Tata Trusts in Bhaushal village of Himmotthan Chandrapuri cluster, Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand. I have been associated with teaching for a decade, and this opportunity given by Himmotthan during the Covid lockdown came as a blessing in disguise for me in many ways.

My school is on the Kedarnath yatra route, where most of the men are busy at work, and women are occupied with their household chores. Children who were previously facing neglect due to parental absence at home have now lost touch with their education too because of the Covid lockdown.

Survivor series

During this period, Himmotthan approached me to conduct a community classroom in Bhaushal village. The initial days were very challenging as my village has hardly any online facilities. Holding physical classes in the community also became difficult due to the social stigma and taboo related to Covid.

However, with support from Himmotthan, we initially established an online learning platform for children. The Himmotthan team has supported us with laptops, Android phones, and mobile data recharge for parents as well as a few elders who stayed in the village.

When things improved, we set up a reading corner in the village with the help of Sanjay Singh and Ranveer Kathait, library facilitators from Himmotthan. Children from Bhaushal village as well as some nearby villages could come and make use of the facilities, and we organised various book-based activities for the children.

After November 2020, some new initiatives like ‘reading mela’ and a community library were initiated in the villages. The community library was started in the village and not in the school premises because of safety and precautionary orders from the government. So, through this library and with the help of the children, we made efforts to get the community involved.

Soon after the schools re-opened, we shifted the community library to the school premises. Seeing us work relentlessly in the village, the SMC (School Management Committee) also came forward to help us. Now, in the SMC meeting which is held every month, parents and SMC members also read books while sitting in the community library corner.

I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in at least one positive thing - a much greater appreciation for government schools and organisations like Himmotthan. With children at home full time and parents struggling to balance work and the household, it was clear how schools and organisations like Himmotthan play a very essential caretaking role in the society. In the last couple of years, parents’ appreciation and gratitude for teachers, and the invaluable role they play in the well-being of students, has skyrocketed.

This story was first published on March 29, 2022 in YourStory.

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