Around 30 children of different age groups gather in a tribal hamlet of Taralpada in Jawhar Taluka of Palghar district, around 130 km from Mumbai, at 9 AM every day. The reason behind the gathering is an alternative school run by the older students of the hamlet. This is a fun school where they play informative games, sing songs along with regular studies.
Most of these children, aged six to 15, used to go to the residential school far away from their villages but due to the Coronavirus-induced restrictions, the schools are shut. So, the boys and girls, aged 16-20, whose colleges are also closed, have taken an initiative to teach this younger lot for two hours every day in two batches- Class 1 to 7 as one batch and 8-10 as another.
This started a month ago. The main reason being most of the children forgetting how to even read or write.
Parshuram Bhore, resident, Taralpada who teaches at this school says, "Because of the lockdown, most of these kids used to just play in the village. And hence they have forgotten everything in the last 4-5 months"
Mr Bhore, along with a couple of his friends from the village, teach them Marathi, English, Mathematics.
Palghar compromises of nearly 37 per cent of tribal population. Jawhar has nearly 90 per cent tribal population. Most of the land is covered with forest and they do not even have a proper phone network, leave aside internet connectivity.
The residents of Jawhar, most of whom are migrant labourers, find it difficult to even feed their families two square meals, making buying a smartphone a distant dream for them.
The concept of online learning severely impacted the marginalised children. A local NGO, Shramjeevi Sanghatana, took it upon themselves to impart teaching training to the teenager students so that they could then teach the younger lot free of cost.
Sita Ghatal, social worker, Shramjeevi Sanghatana says, "There is no online education anywhere in this area.There is an issue with the connectivity, smartphone. So, it can't happen here."
Now these children go to their alternate school every day and even their parents are relieved that the kids have started enjoying studies once again.