Manjakkudi home to 2,500 people is a tiny hamlet situated on the banks of river Kaveri in Tamil Nadu. A silent educational and community empowerment revolution has been in progress in this village for over 15 years now. Manjakkudi is the birthplace of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a world-renowned Vedanta scholar and spiritual teacher.
Inspired by Swamiji’s vision that the youth of our nation should receive value education and cultural validation, SDET (Swami Dayananda Educational Trust) has been at the forefront to help realise our Founder’s dream. Since 2003, SDET has been running two schools and a college in the region.
Close to 3,800 students from the neighbouring villages spread across 11 districts have benefited from the education provided by our educational institutions in Manjakkudi last year (2019-2020). Over the years, Manjakkudi has transformed itself into a knowledge hub and the lockdown provided an opportunity to prefix another ‘e’ to this educational zone.
When the first national lockdown was announced on 24 March, the academic term at all the 3 aforesaid institutions were drawing to a close. Undeterred by the challenge, the SDET management with support from the academic staff decided to go in for tech enabled education to complete the portions.
As the lockdown continued, the management and academic staff decided to make good use of the available technology and kept the engagement going with student community through innovative programmes on YouTube like Slokam, Ragam and Yogam.
Name of Institution: Swami Dayananda Matric Higher Secondary School
Just before the commencement of the new term, the school principal had a webinar with parents across different classes. The webinar saw 60% parental attendance. “The idea was to inform parents on the way forward and address any concerns that they might have. We also informed parents of the pure science stream (minus maths) that has been introduced from Class 11 this year,” Ms. Padma Raghunathan, principal, Swami Dayananda Matric Higher Secondary School, Manjakkudi, Tamil Nadu, said.
The new term for higher secondary students (Classes 9 to Classes 12) commenced on 22 June. Already, 65% of higher secondary students are online. During the summer break, preparatory sessions, tutorials and extra classes were conducted for students going to Class 10 and 12 keeping in mind that these students will be appearing for public exams next year.
The rest of the school students logged online from 1st July.
While teachers go to the school and explain lessons via the smart board that is relayed through a laptop placed in the classroom to the students’ homes, the school authorities have also made sure that students don’t end up learning ‘from the comfort of their homes.’ “We have put SOPs (standard operating procedures) in place. Just like in school, students need to sit down in an assigned place at home. Sitting in the front yard or back yard of the home to learn lessons is a strict no-no. While students need not wear uniforms, but they should come neatly groomed for the class,” Ms. Raghunathan said.
Name of the Institution: Swami Dayananda College of Arts & Science
The new academic term for the 2nd and 3rd year college students commenced online on 1st July via Google Meet.
“Our professors are also uploading the materials in Bharathidasan University E-Portal so that any student can log in to the website and can refer the same,” Ms. Hema Rengamani, principal in-charge, Swami Dayananda College of Arts & Science said.
Initially, parents, students and professors hesitated about this online class initiative.”But now, the parents are at the forefront and are asking us to continue online classes. The students and professors are also very eager and have bonded well during the online classroom. We feel proud and happy to see the positive change in attitude,” added Ms. Rengamani.
Nevertheless, challenges persist and some students have still not been able to get online. “Close to 20% of the students don’t have smartphones or laptops. We requested them to buy if possible, to join with their friends nearby or to access the material at computer centers. Some of the students have not been able to access online classes due to poor network in their area,” Ms. Rengamani added.
Name of the Institution:Semmangudi Higher Secondary School
Virtual classrooms are yet to commence in the neighbouring Semmanagudi Higher Secondary School, Sembangudi, Tamil Nadu. The students mostly come from economic disadvantaged backgrounds with their families not having access to a smart phone. But where there is a will, there is a way. The school teachers reached out to the student families personally and hand delivered Xerox copies of the first two chapters across subjects for Classes 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12. These copies contain questions and answers as well.
The school authorities are also encouraging parents to buy smart phones during parent teacher interactions.