“First, have faith in yourselves. Know that though one may be a little bubble and another may be a mountain-high wave, yet behind both the bubble and the wave there is the infinite ocean. Therefore, there is hope for everyone.”
Covid-19 has been upon us for more than a year and a half. Globally, over forty lakh people have succumbed to the pandemic, economies have taken a tumble, and people have lost jobs and have been pushed to dire straits (yes, some have seen their fortunes increasing too).
2020 was hard and in 2021 we witnessed the nightmarish second wave. Though the initial shock has died and the world is afoot with efforts to restore normalcy, it is an uphill task. Uncertainty still rules. However, man’s hope and resilience tower over all else. Teachers, worldwide, have been at the forefront, taking on the challenges bravely. Some western countries had already made a foray into online education and could thus switch over to online mode sooner, but they also had their cup of woes. India, last year, was home to a new digital revolution with teaching going online. Teachers, who in general, possess the wherewithal to weather storms, have undoubtedly adapted well to online teaching, maybe with a few hiccups along the way. They were rightly hailed for their willingness and capability to turn on a dime to continue the process of education. They acquired new skills (especially ICT) enthusiastically and stepped up their efforts to take learning to the homes of their students. Despite several odds, they soldiered on to deliver their lessons, conduct examinations, carry out evaluations, etc. online.
Indian teachers have redefined teaching in recent years. There is no denying the fact that our teachers of the past are most revered for their knowledge, wisdom, dedication, and passion. Similarly, we must also acknowledge the rise of a new breed of teachers who are altruistic and leave no stone unturned in furthering the cause of education. Unmindful of their pay, lack of infrastructure/support, difficult working/living conditions, etc. they persevere to bring about a change in the lives of their students, thus getting enshrined in their hearts. These are the teachers who trudge long distances, work as the only teachers in their schools, labour on in dilapidated buildings/open grounds/under trees, build a rapport with the students’ parents, the villagers/people, and are thus driving home a sea change by taking education to those deprived of it. They sacrifice comforts for imparting knowledge, engendering smiles, and empowering individuals.
Governments (centre & state), corporates/industries, society, managements and educators must join hands to make education accessible to all as the future will involve hybrid/integrated learning. The digital divide must be addressed and innovations must penetrate the grassroots and reduce/end educational inequities which are untenable. What is being done by a few individuals and organisations must gather momentum and involve concerted efforts by all. This is not just in the interest of students but in the larger interest of the country itself. India which had world-class universities like Nalanda, Sarada, Taxila, etc. is witnessing a resurgence, with its modern institutions receiving global acclaim. This will create a greater impact if the talents across all parts of India are brought under the gamut of education. NEP 2020 rightly seeks to provide education for all, while ensuring students’ freedom in many areas and by uniting diverse fields, strengthening infrastructure, creating relevant materials, stressing on holistic development (including the inculcation of values), etc.
The current situation is one where rules are being relaxed and schools are opening up. Everyone has realised that the physical space is as important as the online one and has thus been waiting to get back to their institutions. One aspect that must be borne in mind is the possibility of fragile and bruised minds in classrooms. Also, the cool comfort of students’ homes will be replaced by the rule-bound educational spaces. Patience and empathy will be required in large doses. Further, the right chord can be struck with the teaching being engaging, exciting, experiential, as well as enriching. Agreed, it will take some time and effort. But, is there anything that teachers can’t do? With coping mechanisms intact and by putting their best foot forward they are bound to create the right learning opportunities for students.