Managing academics in pandemic time: not easy in this school where students hail from poor families

How does a small, state-aided middle school manage itself during this pandemic?

In the case of St. Lazarus Middle School, located on Madha Church Road in R. A. Puram and managed by the Bon Secours congregation of nuns ( who also managed a few others schools in the zone), the experience has been mixed.

The school, which has some 300-plus children, from KG to Std.VIII of girls and boys hailing from middle-class and poor families is still finding ways to engage its children in daily study.

It has distributed the textbooks, bags and footwear supplied by the state and meant for all students. But there are a few dozen students who are yet to pick up their bundles.

This is because all of them reside in the Kannagi Nagar zone, where the TN Slum Clearance Board resettled hundreds of families living in slums and on unauthorised land across the city. Students who used to study at St. Lazarus preferred to continue their studies here but now that public transport is suspended, many have not been able to visit their school.

Online classes are on for students of all classes but the process has not been easy. As Sister Emizhtha Mary, headmistress explains, “Many do not own good phones and make do with ‘digit’ phones. But they make some effort to learn something.”

The nun shares an experience of a Std.3 student who recorded the verses she had been taught via ¬†audio recording sent through the phone by her class teacher. “This girl had learnt these verses well and shared them with us. It was no cute.”

But senior students who do not own a smart phone are out in the cold and must make do with learning what they can from text books. “I wish someone donated some phones for these students but we understand its a costly thing to do, ” admits the headmistress.

School teachers work mostly from home but meet off and on to review online teaching methods, to discuss what works and what does not. A lot of tweaking is done.

“Sometimes audio recording (of lessons) helps and sometimes, photos of visuals ¬†and notes helps,” says the nun. She also records and communicates weekly messages for all the students.

“Each teacher has formed WhatsApp groups of their wards and so communicating is easy now, ” says Sr. Mary.

Currently, school admissions are on and the headmistress is pleased with the trends.

Some 50-plus new students have signed up, seeking admission to various classes. “We will keep admitting students through these weeks and I sit in office all morning,” says Sr. Mary.

  • Photo used here is from the MT archives; of an event held at St Lazarus School in the past
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