Turtuk is a village located in Shyok valley, Ladakh, and is the northernmost village of India. It doesn’t have a stable mobile and internet connection, and still experiences power cuts on a regular basis. For residents of this village, having uninterrupted access to search engines is a luxury. While students in other parts of the nation are using platforms such as Zoom or Google Classrooms, students in Turtuk live in a world with their absence.
There are many volunteers in various parts of the nation like in Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, etc who teach these children through phone calls.
Sarah Shah, principal of Turtuk Preparatory School, said that before the pandemic, the school relied on volunteers to teach its 70 students from pre-nursery to class 4. But in COVID times, things have changed rapidly. She said that before the pandemic hit, they had volunteers who would come for short terms to teach school students. Volunteers helped and trained their teachers with lesson planning, delivering classroom lessons and basic child psychology.
When the nation-wide lockdown was announced classroom’s doors were shut. The school tried teaching children in open grounds and maintaining social distancing but it didn’t work.
The school decided to teach students one-on-one over phone calls in the absence of traditional teaching methods. The school also collaborated with social platforms like teachforladakh and projectparwaaz.in, and called for volunteers who could commit to teaching students.
The school is dependent on its team of 85 volunteers to teach students every single day for the past three months. Many of these volunteers are students themselves. These volunteers are briefed on the learning levels of each student and are provided PDFs for lesson planning and teaching students.
Sarah said that each student of classes 3 and 4 has two volunteers assigned who teaches them English, environmental studies and general knowledge. Since it is very difficult to teach mathematics over phone calls, students rely on videos made by volunteers and even take help from the local school teachers.
For lower grades and toddlers, teachers and volunteers make videos and share them on Whatsapp class groups as it’s not possible to teach them over phone calls. Volunteers aren’t any specific hours to teach but are expected to cover two to three topics a day, in accordance with the students’ abilities to grasp concepts.