Ever since the pandemic began, people have been praising the commendable work done by the frontline workers — and rightly so. They deserve all the plaudits for their selfless services. But amidst all this, silently doing its duty was the teaching community. The teachers were the invisible frontline workers who strived to ensure that no child lost a previous academic year, especially those with no or limited access to a smartphone or Internet.
And, as a special tribute on Teachers' Day to these unsung Covid-19 warriors, CEQUE has published ‘In Crises, We Persist’. The book features inspirational, real-life stories of how teachers made learning accessible to their students during the pandemic.
Spotlighting 15 teachers, the book gives a glimpse into how teachers used innovative methods to keep the students motivated and engaged with their studies. Take, for instance, Kunda Bachhav, who started a mobile library for her students in Anadavalli village, Nashik. Bachhav, class teacher of standard 8, Mahanagar Palika Shala No 17, visited the village thrice a week with her library of around 200 books — kids as young as two and as old as 19 have benefitted from her initiative.
Then there’s Pramod Khandekar, who turned the walls of houses in a village into blackboards. He painted them and started open classrooms — following all Covid-19 protocols — in Adapalli village, Gadchiroli. Since children from the village Bara Bangala had access to their parents' smartphones only at night, Rohini Dange from Kasara initiated a night school so that her students could attend her classes. Pinesh Jadhav from Musarne started a programme called ‘Amcha gav, aamchi shala. Chala setu bandhuya’, a bridge between students and teachers. He reached children in remote tribal hamlets through the speakerphone of a parent's simple phone. Many such teachers went beyond the conventional blackboard teaching method to make learning fun and interesting.
Speaking about the driving force behind the publication of the book, Uma Kogekar, CEO of CEQUE, a not-for-profit organisation, said, “In a year of so many challenges, personal loss, economic hardships and uncertainty, we at CEQUE felt it was necessary to highlight stories of hope. Just like frontline health workers, teachers too were Covid warriors. Such stories serve to motivate teachers by recognising their efforts and sending a message that no matter the crisis, we can and will persist.”
CEQUE teams worked closely with teachers in Government and low-income schools in Mumbai, Thane, Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Palghar and Nashik throughout the year. “We identified teachers whose work showed innovative ideas that were out of the box. With CEQUE's support, the teachers implemented their ideas. Such teachers were selected for their stories to be documented. We worked with 300 teachers positively impacting over 5000 kids,” Kogekar shared while talking about how the stories of teachers were selected for the book.
The publication of stories of teachers will be an annual feature. “Teachers will nominate their peers for ideas that are the most innovative. From these, the best will be picked to be developed into full stories. We are actively considering publishing student stories as well. The focus would be to highlight the students' experience of learning in the pandemic,” Kogekar added.
Ashish Kelshikar, Chatura Rao, Deepa Deostalee, Harshavardhan Dange and Rachna Bisht Rawat have brought these inspiring tales to us. The book is edited by Ankita Shah, illustrated by Ananya Broker Parekh and designed by Soumya Jain. To download the book readers can visit Ceque.org.