16 months and counting. You’ve seen us at home, disinterested in our studies and unable to focus on class. You have noticed a decrease in our physical and creative activities.
You have seen us sink into anxiety. At the same time, you have had your own struggles. You have lost your jobs and even your loved ones. It’s been a tough year for all of us, but we request you to listen to us.
I am Rutuja Bhoite, a second-year college student in the United States. It took me a lot of hard work to reach where I am today, but my college years have looked fundamentally different from what I had imagined.
I always had a fear of education becoming digitized, and guess what? I am living it today. I remember a classroom filled with colorful posters and benches where I would chat with my friends.
But today, it’s simply a computer screen. At least for those of us who are privileged to afford a device.
I am Saumya Shinde, a Grade 12 Student. I was initially excited to experiment with online learning, but over time I have realized that it just isn’t as effective.
It hurts me to see our teachers giving their best in classes and still not being able to interact with us. We are missing out on so many important experiences and exposure as students.
Monotony, hunched backs, and sore eyes have defined these past months for us.
We are 2 of the 268 million children of India whose education has been interrupted by the pandemic – two of the lucky ones.
Our friend, Rupesh, a Grade 11 student told us, “I was upset and worried as to how I will be able to attend my online classes as I didn’t have a device.” 60% of Indian students have fallen out of the system altogether due to a lack of access to an electronic device.
“When can we get back to our classrooms so we can learn since not having an internet connection will now determine whether I will learn or not.” Education should not be a privilege but a basic right.
“It’s been a difficult job for the teachers in this world of online learning but rushing through the syllabus isn’t the way out.”
Sohail, a recent Grade 10 graduate, shares his concern. Education hinges on authentic teacher-student connections, which are simply not possible to achieve online. Not when more than half of our teachers said that they were “not prepared to facilitate remote learning.”
For Advait, a 4-year-old, a classroom means sitting in front of the mobile screen. “I want to go to school because online learning isn’t fun. Even if the teacher gives us an activity, I have to do it alone and I can’t make friends. I don’t have anyone to play or study with.”
Human interactions which shape our education just as much as our textbooks are absent from his classroom.
We know that you are worried about our health, but experts have provided detailed guidelines on how to reduce the risk of getting infected in schools. We start with assessing the local situation.
Students under the age of 10 are least likely to contract and transmit the disease.
The ones truly at risk here are the adults in the school who need to get prioritized vaccination. Open communication and prompt actions will be our guiding firesticks in the dark caverns of uncertainty.
Once we are all on the same page about reopening schools, we can all adhere to the protocols laid down.
We also wish to highlight how not to reopen schools. The last thing we wish for is to jump right back into the old education system. Ask us what we want, ask us what is working, ask us how we can help.
We need socio-emotional learning in our schools, especially for those of us still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. We need holistic assessments that help in evaluating true growth.
We, every single one of us, need access to a device and internet connection, so our learning does not get hampered again.
This is the time for all of us to come together as a community to secure our future. We have to raise our voices to demand an education that unleashes our full potential.
Demand methods of learning that aren’t just rote learning. Demand that we do everything possible to work together to reopen our schools. Countries all over the world have prioritized education, then why can’t we?
With love, faith, and utmost urgency.
Teach For India students.