Distance learning: students from underprivileged families lagging behind

Nima | Gelephu

Primary schools will remain closed for the rest of the year.

At Kencholing in Sarpang, a fifth standard student Nisha Rai, wishes her school had opened by now.

She helped her younger brother in Kencholing extended classroom complete his assignments for the past six months. Nisha spent most of her day helping her parents on the farm.

“Learning is much better at school with teachers and friends. I get to talk with them,” she said.

However, she is confused as to whether she would be able to follow the required health measures while returning to school.

“Everything would be like a new beginning. I am worried thinking about returning to school after a long break,” said Nisha Rai.

Despite schools remaining closed for months, the siblings made sure they completed assignments sent to them on WeChat and messenger.

A teacher from Kencholing ECR visited the siblings once a week as a part of the home visit initiative started in the dzongkhag to help students continue learning while schools remain closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The teacher-in-charge at Kencholing ECR, Tenzin, said the home visit for e-learning purposes was relevant only to the students with smartphones and television at home.

Self-instructional material has helped students who had no access to television and smartphones.

“There were parents who told us that they wanted their children to discontinue studies. We had to convince them. It is better when a family has an elder sibling studying in higher grades,” he said.

Visiting students door-to-door as the country witnesses an increasing number of Covid-19 cases is difficult.

Tenzin said the pandemic could hurt the quality of education. “Distance learning is not so relevant to families that are without smartphones and television,” he said. “Almost half of the students are without the required facilities and parents not literate. This makes a home visit and learning through self-instructional material less effective.”

The dzongkhag education office encourages teachers in Sarpang to reach to students who do not have access to e-learning. The students from the same villages are called to gather in small numbers with the help of tshogpas.

Chief dzongkhag education officer, Thinley Dorji, said the dzongkhag tried to reach all students with home visits in place.

“However, there are some that could not be covered,” he said.

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