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Distance cannot stop our learning

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"What if lessons were like stories! What if we could watch those like cartoons on the TV!! Wouldn’t it be great fun, if lessons could float like clouds, in front of the eyes?  Learning could be more fun then. Again, if there is any time, when we are far from our school and teachers and we are unable to understand even an easy lesson; what can we do then?  Keeping this in mind, we came up with this endeavour.”

These words are from the description box of the Facebook page “The Online Teacher”. Let’s find out about the background story!

I am Shaila Sharmin, currently working as a teaching fellow for Teach for Bangladesh. I teach grade 4 and 5 students in a government primary school in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Like all other students all over the country, my students were preparing for a class party on 17th March, which is National Children's Day in our country. They made all the arrangements, decorated the classroom and ordered the cake. But suddenly the notice came to immediately shut all the educational institutions in the country before their party day. At first, the students thought that they had 14 days’ vacation. They were heartbroken, but they thought they could make it after the short vacation. We had no idea how long it was going to be.

When reality hit, we all found out that it is going to be an uncertain period of time. A colleague of mine, Atia, while communicating with students and asking about their life and study, realized that students did not have any scope for learning. They do not have anyone in their family who can help them regarding study. Fellows are their teachers whether the school remains open or not. 

Another fellow, Sanjida was maintaining contact with her students and giving them mental support. One of her students, who was top of her class, said, “Apa, when will the school will open? I have no teacher, no homework, I have nothing to study because I can’t solve some lessons by my own. I am getting bored at home and I will not get good marks in the examination if this situation continues.” After hearing the urge of her student to learn, Sanjida tried to support some of them over the phone. But it was not very feasible idea.

Analyzing all these events, I asked myself how prepared I was to face this problem. I thought there must be an alternative way to reach her students. So, Atia, Sanjida and I came up with an idea to support our students by making educational videos and sending them through the Internet.

We were determined to continue teaching and learning because life can’t stop in this lockdown. We gathered our ideas and thoughts. Initially we thought of making videos and sending them to our students. But then we realized we could post them on Facebook and upload them to YouTube. This could be useful for many students around the country. So we started to plan, selecting topics. We named their project The Online Teacher. We opened a Facebook page named The Online Teacher and created a YouTube channel. The videos are 5-10 minutes long so viewers don’t get bored. We are writing up scripts, gathering material, shooting them, editing the videos and finally uploading them to both Facebook and YouTube. We started by sending them to students to make sure they are understandable.  

Using this platform, we are trying to make comprehensible video lessons of Bangla, English, Math, General Science, Bangladesh and Global Studies and Fine Arts for grade 1-5; and to reach as many students as possible all over the country. We are also giving mental health support through messages and live sessions. We are not only focusing on textbook-related content but also trying to cover history and life-related knowledge.

We are seeking feedback from their students and asking them on which topic they need the videos. The students are also enjoying seeing their teacher on the screen and learning by themselves. But it was not an easy initiative to take. We didn't have any resources as we were not prepared for this long lockdown. We had no skill regarding video editing. In spite of the challenges, we made it happen. When you want to make a difference, you will find your way to your goal.

Teach for Bangladesh serves students who are from very challenging economic backgrounds.  A little care can have a great impact on them in this pandemic situation. Engaging those students with studying also helps keep them from anxiety and depression. COVID-19 has shown us many challenges. Our good work must go on because we believe doing something is better than doing nothing.

— Shaila Sharmin

Fellow, Teach For Bangladesh

 

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This piece is part of the Teacher Task Force’s #TeachersVoices campaign, created to bring forward the experiences of teachers working every day to ensure their students continue to benefit from a quality education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. To participate, go to our dedicated webpage.