It has just been a few weeks that regular schools have opened and teachers, parents, and educational experts are already seeing a huge void in the kids’ learning.
“Most children have gone back to their mother tongue,” explains Nagasimha G Rao, director, Child Rights Trust. “No matter what the child’s mother tongue was, they would all speak a common language at school. Sometimes even more than one language. But, staying with their families and very little or no schooling at home has took them far away from general communication. This is clearly seen in younger kids who spent most of their pandemic time inside their home.”
The kids have gone back in time. Almost 1/3rd of the class 5 students are unable to read a class 2 level class book fluently. They fail to recall alphabets, numbers, basic mathematics like addition and subtraction and worse they can’t speak to their own friends with ease.
Children have lost confidence to write simple sentences as well, adds Kamala Sri, primary school teacher at Basarikatte, Chikkamagalur district. “We visited our students’ houses and encouraged them to come to school. They happily returned too. But their smiles faded as soon as they held the pencil and were told to write what they did all these days at home. They have tons of things in their heads, but are finding it very difficult to put them down on paper. We were ready to see children forget lessons, but this is a different game altogether. They have lost their basic communication skills, “she adds.
The issue is very common in rural areas since online classes and social meetings were absent for these children. Nagasimha G Rao notes another point here: While playing with friends, children speak. That is a huge exercise of communication. That is lost since group games didn’t happen for a long time.
Child Rights Trust has identified volunteers and trained them to help kids at rural kids to cope. They have begun with just making kids sit in a group and tell stories. Once a child is speaking confidently, half the game is won, says Mr Rao.
Key factors of learning like focus, being able to even sit in a place for hours or think about what someone says have reduced drastically in children especially the ones that are under 10-12 years of age, claim experts.
They are starting a brand new life with befriending old friends, learning what they probably excelled two years ago, having petty fights with friends, learning to ask there are numerous things to work on. How far will this help kids and how soon is something we don’t know for sure, says Keerthana Sharma. She is a trained volunteer helping such kids to normalize school life.
Several NGOs and citizen help groups are trying to find ways to help children reach pre-covid levels. Child Rights Trust has designed a concept called ‘Community School’ where a group of kids from neighboring areas are called in under a roof and just push them to socialize bit by bit. Social mingling is something we are working very hard, the volunteers say. Are children still happy to go back to school? We should make school a happy place first, text books and lessons can wait, ends Keerthana.