While schools across India are struggling with online teaching methods, a town in Kashmir had other innovative ideas.
Doodpathri, is a small town in Budgam district, Kashmir. Every morning students walk through narrow bridges and climb hills to reach their classroom. The outdoor class gives them a fresh look and a new learning experience, most importantly with the view of snow-capped Himalayas.
Lock down has shut us to stay indoors for a long period and these kinds of unique learning is a fresh, positive experience for both parents and children. The state has reported more than 19,000 cases and some 365 deaths.
“It’s far better that our kids attend such schools than grow weary in homes where they often end up frustrating themselves,” says Mushtaq Ahmad, whose son is attending the open air school. Officials should collaborate with locals to set up more such schools, he adds.
Doodpathri itself is a well-known hill station and also the most popular tourist destination for it’s idealic beauty of nature. Hence, as the tourist visiting has lessen down in the recent times, the native people of the town had plans to put it to a good use.
“The classes are being conducted keeping the safety measures in mind,” said Mohammad Ramzan Wani, zonal education officer, who helped set up the community school. “Due to unpredictable weather in upper reaches, we also tried to pitch tents for seamless execution of these classes.”
Many Indian students from the rural areas are still struggling to attend online classes due to lack of technology. There is also a keen digital divide with the private school students, where some could afford multiple devices such a smartphones, iPads and laptops and some who could only get to a certain limit. Hence, the concept of open classrooms in Kashmir was indeed a wow-factor.
An article from the BBC reads that most of these children belong to Gujjar-Bakarwal community of Kashmir. The Gujjar-Bakarwals are a nomadic tribe. “Their eager participation has made the entire concept click and created the similar demand elsewhere,” says a teacher who volunteered for the community school.
Officials say the open-air schools are following all protocols related to Covid-19, such as wearing of masks and social distancing. Teachers say authorities regularly show up for inspections, and ensure the needs for class and students are available.
The only disadvantage is that they have no way of sheltering from the rain. When the clouds overhead burst, the children run for shelter, with an excitement of giggles and screams.