Serkong School’s internet-based home schooling
Internet access has made a huge difference in Spiti Valley, but home schooling remains a less-than-ideal solution – that’s our conclusion from a year living with the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On-and-off in-classroom teaching
A year ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic started, we in the remote Spiti Valley had to be inventive – organising home schooling without the internet. In March this year, the school re-opened on the first day after the winter vacation and we began our regular classes following all Covid-19 safety protocols. However, after a couple of months the pandemic accelerated in India and the government and local authority ordered the closure of all schools, first until 31 May and then extended further. So our school closed on 3 May and the students were sent home. Only the teaching staff remained at the school, to make alternative arrangements for students to continue their studies at home.
The difference made by having internet access – and its limits
As many locations in Spiti Valley now have internet access, and as almost all students have access to mobile phones and WhatsApp, we were able to start internet-based home schooling. For each class, we organised one WhatsApp group, so that we could easily connect with the students. The teachers prepared home assignments for their subjects and classes on a biweekly basis, and sent them to the classes through WhatsApp; they also provided online teaching every weekday. The home assignments were collected every two weeks – the students sent them back by WhatsApp, and the teachers returned their feedback on them.
Pin Valley currently has no access to the internet; therefore, we had to handle the home assignments differently there. We sent students hardcopies of the home assignments, and we assigned one teacher to conduct regular classes in Pin Valley for three hours each day.
Drawbacks of the system
This system was surely better than having no home schooling at all. However, most of our teachers were not satisfied with it, as many students did not do their assignments and our teachers observed that the learning results were lower than in our regular classes. And in some places, like Dangkar and Lhari, the internet connection was very poor and students had to go to a particular spot to have access to the network. They frequently lost connection and could not complete their assignments on time.
Moving back to in-classroom teaching
Thus, in the third week of June, we called students from Classes 6 to 10, and all students from Pin Valley, back into the school and re-started regular classes for them. When we have established that these classes are operating smoothly, we will ask the remaining students to come back to school. Many parents are interested in ending the home schooling phase and in sending their children back to school.
Author: Acharya Tenzin Dorjee, Principal of Serkong School
13 July 2021