Schools shut due to COVID, children in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar learn English via loudspeakers

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Updated: Jul 28, 2020 4:41 PM

In Bhatpal village of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar, villagers have put up six loudspeakers for the teachers to teach English to village students.

Officials say they have put up six loudspeakers in Bhatpal village, which has around 300 families. (Express photo by Gargi Verma)

With the coronavirus outbreak resulting in the closure of educational institutions including schools, a large number of students are turning to online learning. Virtual classrooms are now becoming a reality in metro cities with students having easy access to gadgets, fast Internet and uninterrupted electricity supply; but, what about rural and backward areas that face a shortage of such facilities?

In Bhatpal village of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar, the villagers have come up with an alternative to help their children acquire new skills during the pandemic without the traditional one-on-one method and adhering to the social distancing norms. The villagers have put up six loudspeakers for the teachers to teach English to village students.

According to a report in The Indian Express, many parts of the state lack Internet connectivity and people don’t have devices to take online classes; Bhatpal village is one among them. There are around 300 families in the village and the coronavirus outbreak has forced everyone to stay indoor including the children.

Nikhilesh Hari, a development assistant of the district mineral fund, came up with this novel approach and it has become a huge success. Hari explained that there are six loudspeakers for the village. The loudspeakers are being used by the teachers to teach English and disseminate information on malnutrition and other community issues.

He said this has been going on since June 14. The sessions on the loudspeakers are held twice a day. Each session runs for around 90 minutes. The sessions include storytelling and conversation.

Hari said while one of the speakers recites a story in Halbi, translating words and sentences, the other speaker asks questions. As the children hear folk stories, they learn to translate basic sentences.

“Our English teachers write the script in Hindi and submit it to another team, which converts Hindi into Halbi. We have theatre artists working with us, who give voice to the script. It takes a day to make one session, and we do it non-stop,” he told the daily.

The loudspeakers are operated from the village Panchayat Bhawan. The recordings are made at the district headquarters and then transferred on pen drives by teachers to the village. Bhatpal village is 20 km from the district headquarters of Jagdalpur.

Shailendra Tiwari, one of the teachers, said that the loudspeakers are placed in a manner that they can be heard from every part of the village. “So children can sit at home and follow the lesson,” he said.

According to Rajat Bansal, the District Collector, the programme is being currently run in seven blocks in the Bastar district.

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