Icylia B Marak interacting with students during a home visit Credit: Icylia B Marak

Shillong: Icylia B Marak has amply shown that learning never stops, COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding. The teacher of Government Boys Higher Secondary School, Tura in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills left no stone unturned to ensure that students got education despite the global health crisis and local connectivity issues in the district.

With a majority of the students falling under the economically weaker section and online classes not accessible to all, Marak found a way to meet the students — making social visits.

Marak’s noble initiative came to light on September 15, when Meghalaya education minister Lahkmen Rymbui took to Twitter to share her story.

Rymbui tweeted, “Madam Icylia B Marak,Govt BoysHSS Tura who uses all means to reach her Cl 10 Students for interactions during pandemic.Her example& also others inspires Teachers & Students community that no Pandemic could stop the wheel of teaching & learning.Let’s innovate.#OurTeachersOurHeroes”.

EastMojo contacted Marak to know her side of the story. Here are a few edited excerpts from the interview:

Which class do you teach and how many students?

I am the class teacher of Class VIII. In our school, we have four sections and out of this, I teach students of Section C. But right now we are focusing on Class X students since they will be appearing for the board exams next year and we want to ensure that they don’t miss out on the study materials. The total number of students I am teaching right now is 45.

Do all these students of yours have access to smartphones or Internet connection?

There are some students who don’t have smartphones but there are others who do. As you’re aware, most of the students in our school come from economically weaker sections, so their families can’t afford smartphones. While there is Internet connectivity in every nook and corner, the real problem is with network. So, we try all means to contact and connect with them.

Are all these students within close proximity or there are students from remote villages? If yes, how do you connect with them?

Our students are all based within close proximity. However, some students have gone back to their villages. So, for these students, we give them a phone call or connect via WhatsApp with students who have smartphones. Through these students, we would ask them to share the study materials or any information with the other students who are in their locality.

With this pandemic and educational institutions closing down, do you think it’s the end of the world for teaching or one can always pursue other ways?

First of all, on behalf of the teaching community, I would like to give my sincere thanks to our honourable education minister Sir Lahkmen Rymbui for appreciating and recognising our dedication. In this situation, we as teachers are facing a lot of challenges. Believe me, the teachers are trying their level best to reach out to all the students.

The pandemic has greatly impacted the teaching community but I will not say it is the end of the world for teachers as well as for the learners. I believe that teaching and learning is a lifelong process. I agree that we are going through tough times and it is challenging for both the learners, educators, parents and all stakeholders but we need to adapt to new situations and find ways and means to combat this virus.

Apart from giving online classes, you’re also doing making home visits. Tell us more about it.

We have done social and home visits too. Normally, on Teachers’ Day, students organise functions for teachers to show their respect but this year it was impossible because of the situation. I asked my colleagues as to why don’t we go and visit them instead. So, four of us agreed went to meet the students.

But before we made our visit, we had contacted them asking if they would be okay to meet us taking the consent of their parents. The students were delighted to meet us and we spoke to one of the parents for setting up a meeting place.

A total of eight students could come since other students were staying at far off places. Our visit wasn’t a kind of class; we interacted with them and checked with them if they are facing any issues in getting the study materials. During our visit, we noticed that most of the students were worried about a year getting wasted and if they would be promoted to another class next year or not.

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