In a small tribal village on the eastern tip of India, an enterprising teacher has turned walls into blackboards and roads into classrooms, trying to close the gap in learning brought on by prolonged school shutdowns in the country.
Deep Narayan Nayak, 34, a teacher in the village of Joba Attpara in the Paschim Bardhaman district of the eastern state of West Bengal, has painted blackboards on the walls of houses and taught children on the streets for the past year, after the local school shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed nationwide in March last year.
On Monday, children wrote on a wall with chalk and peered into a microscope as Nayak guided them.
“The education of our children stopped ever since the lockdown was imposed. The children used to just loiter around. The teacher came and started teaching them,” said Kiran Turi, whose child learns with Nayak.
Nayak teaches everything from nursery rhymes to the importance of wearing masks and washing hands to about 60 students, and is known as the “Teacher of the Street” to the grateful villagers.
Starting last month, schools began to reopen. Some social scientists are calling for them to fully open to prevent children from falling further behind.
Last month, a survey of nearly 1,400 schoolchildren conducted by a group of academics found that in rural areas, only 8 percent were regularly studying online, 37 percent were not studying at all and about 50 percent were unable to read more than a few words.
Most parents want schools to reopen as soon as possible, it said.
Nayak said he is worried that his students would drift away from the education system if they do not continue their schooling.
“I would see children loitering about the village, taking cattle for grazing, and I wanted to make sure their learning doesn’t stop,” Nayak said.
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