New urgency: Reaching students with Edtech during the pandemic (including social media, texting, calls)
March 30, 2020
Like most countries around the world, Nepal has as well been ordered - all schools to close as a precautionary measure to stop and spread of COVID-19 for the past two weeks. In an unprecedented situation like these where we see no tangible solutions to the problem and no one knows how long it is going to stretch, Teach For Nepal Fellows have been coming up with coping mechanisms to help their students continue their learning and overcome mental and psychological stress and continue their Fellowship remotely or else virtually (when possible).
‘Miss, when will our exam be rescheduled?’- students' text messages like these keep piling up on Prashuma’s phone daily these days.
Prashuma Rai, English Fellow placed in a remote village in Parsa, shares how a mother of one of her students had worked days and nights for the past three months to save five thousand rupees so that her daughter could appear for SEE. This handful of money would cover the cost of room and board during the month-long exam - Rs. 1500 for rent, and 3000 for food.
Parents work hard to make sure that their children can graduate with a degree and lead a better life. Much is at stake when these exams are postponed or canceled for the particular year.
When the crisis hit and the government announced that the board exams would be postponed and a nationwide shutdown would be put into place, it was already the end of the school year. Prasuma, after completing her two years of Fellowship was back home with her family.
But realizing her absence in the community, and that her students are in a state of stress and panic, she is making one on one calls to her students to check their well being and also to see if her students stay focused in the goal they set for themselves for this board exam.
There are questions about the uncertainty, calls about their fears, and questions about the text they are supposed to be preparing, Prasuma is one of the many Fellows, who despite being limited in several ways are pushing their sense of possibility to do the best they can- one call, and one child at a time.
Similarly Marshal Pokhrel, 2018 Science Fellow has been continuously supporting his students of Gyan Batika Secondary School, Subarnapur. For him, the challenge is to overcome the learning crisis that his students might face in the coming days. Currently, with uncertainty about everything, he is worried about losing his two years of investment in students as they might lose their track from the goals they’ve set to pass the SEE exams.
His prompt response to this crisis was in making support calls and sending text messages to his students where they discuss course-related problem-solving techniques. For him, cell phones are the only means to support students who are barred from other means of communication. The challenge for him today is to reduce as much as possible the negative impact of this pandemic while supporting his students academically with limited resources and time-bar.
“As most of the schools are closed, and they do not have access to other school personnel, I along with my co-Fellows are taking special attention to the students with needs, not just related to solving textbook problems but also mental and psychological problems they are facing,” says Marshal.
Dinesh Kumar Sharma, a 2019 Science Fellow working in Dhanusa was on a visit to SEE center in Laliya, Dhanusa when he got the email from TFN to return to his home in Siraha. Dinesh who lives with his students in a nearby community quickly gathered his students and informed them about his reason for leaving early from the village.
He shares, “Before stepping into the last night-bus that day, I had asked them to update me on everything whether it be problems from their textbook or any health-related situation.”
Soon after reaching his home in Siraha, something struck him when he started getting Facebook messages from his students. They were mostly sending questions related to science problems. But what was interesting was that even though many of his students do not have access to WiFi facilities in the villages, they do have access to data packs on their smartphones, which they have been using to talk to their parents who are working abroad.
These days, when the clock strikes 5, he scans model questions from the SEE practice book and posts it on his school’s Facebook account. Dinesh had set up this Facebook account a year ago after observing that most of his students are hung up to Facebook in their leisure time. Little did he know that the very platform set up to send out official notices would today be useful in helping students prepare for their SEE exam. In response to the questions he posts on Facebook, his students then discuss solutions through messenger and other networking sites like IMO.
Right now Dinesh and his co-Fellow Anjali Koirala are using these technologies to support their students and they are planning to introduce and train these tools to other teachers in their school. If the schools remain shut for more duration or if a similar situation arises in the future, the platform created by Dinesh and the training to teachers will enable the school to respond to student’s needs and continue teaching and learning.
Prashuma Rai and Marshal Pokhrel (2018 Fellows) have completed their two years of TFN Fellowship this year at Gyan Batika Secondary School, Subarnapur, Parsa. Dinesh Kumar Sharma and Anjali Koirala (2019) Fellows will soon start their second year of Fellowship at Rashtriya Secondary School, Laliya, Dhanusa from the next academic year 2077 B.S.