Manipur is considerably a tiny state compared to other states in the world. The pandemic has affected all areas of the world and it has been hard for schools in places like Manipur. Since the pandemic began, the Manipur government has suggested that all private schools continue with online classes without taking any fees from any student. The government has also suggested that private schools who have 200-700 students must pay their teachers 50 percent of the regular fees and the private schools who have more than 700 students must be paid in full. Manipur’s internet users are many, but we don’t necessarily have the fastest, cheapest internet facility here. And, as we all know private school teachers are not paid grandly. On top of that, some teachers and students do not always have a smart phone with them. The method of online teaching is not only unusual to the teachers of Manipur but also a grueling task as some of the primary teachers struggle to get the full attention of the little students. We are now in the 7th month of the pandemic here and it has taken a toll of many private school teachers.
A distraught teacher of a reputed private school tells FPSJ Review that her first love is teaching but she had to quit the job because both her parents are retired and she could not keep up with running her household with no pay and immense pressure of online teaching. Private schools do not get funding from the government but manage to pay their teachers through the school fees that they receive from the students. And, since our government has refrained private schools from taking fees from students this pandemic and pushed the schools to keep on with the online classes, the worst brunt is taken by the helpless teachers. Some of these teachers are old as well and are not very good at even texting normal messages via messaging apps such as ‘Whatsapp’.
Also, these teachers are not given any formal trainings on how to conduct an online class and how to deal with students via online. Yet, they are trying. Even among private schools, there are large, well off private schools and then there are small, developing private schools.
There are exemplary schools which have not ditched their employees. One such is Tiny Tots School, and they are managing to pay their teachers. A teacher speaks to FPSJ Review about her experiences during this pandemic and said that “The most challenging thing for her as a teacher while trying to communicate with her students via internet is the loss of human connection with her students” and she feels sad that she is not able to help her young students cope with difficulties in person. She also said that as the months passed, her pay has also reduced. She teaches Class 4 students.
Most of these teachers are managing their online classes via the mobile app called ‘Whatsapp’ by sending videos, study materials, notes, and giving the students home assignments.
Other smaller private schools with understandably much smaller revenue returns, are suffering way more than usual and more than other private schools. During an interview with FPSJ Review, the principal of Galaxy High School said that they managed to cover most of the syllabus (Manipur Board) by March because their sessions start earlier than other private schools.
They haven’t opened their school since the Holi holidays and the principal is very concerned for the students and the teachers. Since they are also struggling to pay their teachers like other smaller private schools, they are hoping for the best. The principal said, “Due to Covid-19, we, the educators and the students are suffering a lot! Most of the teachers complain about not having smart phones also… and we are at our wit’s ends here because we are trying our best to educate the students through phone apps, assignments, home works, notes made by teachers etc.” They are a school of 215 students and 19 teachers. Because of the new ill education policy made by our government, all the private schools are suffering immensely.
The government also announced that all schools and coaching centers can be re-opened by 15th of October 2020. These private schools are all ready stocking up their schools as best as they can with sanitizers and are ready to follow the pandemic SOP routine to the yet when some parents were interviewed, they expressed the view that they are afraid to send their children to school just yet since there are no vaccines available yet in Manipur.
On the other hand, private schools such as Kindergarden Montessori School, Taakyel Kolom Leikai, has already opened their gates to receive forlorn school children who have missed many, many classes and their friends. One class 10 student from this school told FPSJ Review that she started going to school from October 1st and she has two classes a day and she goes to school only three days a week nowadays – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She also said that they are required to maintain social distancing, wear masks and regularly wash hands.
Writer at IRAP