Hyderabad: The entire world is facing a pandemic. Schools and colleges are closed and employees and employers are depending on Work From Home (WFH) to get their work done. Faculty members, teachers and students have been instructed by the MHRD to continue communication with students through online classes.
While teachers from private and international schools are trying their best to use technology during this crisis, government school teachers in Telangana have proved that they are no less than teachers of any international schools.
The members of Telangana State United Teachers Federation (TSUTF) have hired a domain exclusively for them to conduct virtual meetings, webinars, training and conferences and to discuss issues teachers are facing during Covid-19.
On Saturday, the members of Telangana State United Teachers Federation(TSUTF) conducted the state executive meeting with 110 state executive members for around six hours on Big Blue Button Server's domain which they hired exclusively for them. TSUTF is paying Rs 3000 per month for the domain.
Physical meetings of the Teacher's Association which earlier used to be conducted in its state office at Domalguda area in Hyderabad are now replaced by virtual meetings from the comfort of their homes, offices or other personal spaces.
The members discussed about Union Human Resource Development's (MHRD) proposal for 100 days of schooling in the classroom and 100 days of online teaching, financial crisis in the country due to Covid-19. The teachers also discussed about effect of this crisis on government education system. In the meeting, teachers also highlighted the importance of education and medicine in the public sector.
During the state executive meetings, the association demanded the immediate release of salary and pension arrears of March and April, which were unilaterally suspended by the Telangana state government, and demanded the suspension of the DAs from July 2021.
The association also demanded the government to address issues such as the promotion of pandit and PET posts, teacher promotions, inter-school, model school transfers, CPS termination, old pension applicability to selected teachers before September 2004, and minimum wages for contract employees.
According to the association, there is an urgent need to conduct virtual meetings to address several problems faced by government teachers in the state in the wake of Covid-19.
The first thing the association did after deciding to conduct the meetings is to select the medium for conducting the meetings, said Mr Chava Ravi, general secretary, Telangana State United Teachers Federation(TSUTF).
He added, "Initially, we started using Zoom for our virtual meetings but soon as we started using it, we heard the news that Zoom is a not a safe platform. Also in Zoom, we have to reconnect every 40 minutes where as our meetings go on for more than six hours every day. Later, when we started looking for another safer platform to conduct our virtual meetings someone suggested Big Blue Button Server. We decided to hire a domain exclusively for us. It is quite economical for us as we are just paying Rs 3000 per month for the domain and we can conduct meetings for hours without any disruption. The amount we are spending for conducting online classes and meetings is much economical than conducting physical meetings where teachers need to spend for their travel to reach association office. Also, this is a very comfortable way to conduct meetings during hot summers."
"We are using this application since April 15 and since then, we have successfully held many meetings with our association members. We have conducted several classes to upgrade organizational building, service rules and leadership skills among the teachers. The teachers felt very happy with the online classes. They conveyed that these classes are very useful and educative for them," he added.
When questioned about conducting online classes for the students of government schools, Chava Ravi said that the major challenge of remote learning, mainly for government school students is that there is no access to electricity, smart phones, computers, laptops and internet connections in villages as a majority of the students come from poor economical background. That’s why Telangana State United Teachers' Federation (TS UTF) has strongly condemned the central government's proposal for 100 days of schooling in the classroom and 100 days of online teaching in the wake of Coronavirus. TSUTF has made it clear that digital teaching will not benefit the students of government schools.
K. Ranjith Kumar, school assistant and Biology teacher at Zilla Parishad High School(ZPHS), Uppugal in Jangaon district in Telangana, told NewsMeter, "Receiving online training during summer vacations through virtual meetings sitting at home is very useful for teachers. We were taught very useful things in these classes like how to use technology and digital platforms for teaching our students. Even though online classes cannot replace classroom teaching but it is somewhat helpful for us as well as the students, as at least, 10 out of 30 students are able to finish their homeworks through smart phones. But these online training sessions are really important for teachers like us who need to upgrade technical skills because not every government teacher is tech-savvy.”
V. Shanthikumari, Hindi teacher at Mandal Parishad Upper Primary School(MPUPS) in Tandur mandal, Mancherial district, Telangana told NewsMeter, "We always had to visit Hyderabad office of our association to participate in the association meetings but now, because of our virtual meetings we are saving a lot of time. We are able to participate in our association meetings from comfort of our homes. It is summer vacation time for us but due to Covid-19 pandemic we are not able to go anywhere and so these meetings are keeping us occupied when a majority of the citizens are getting bored sitting at home. Apart from keeping us occupied, we also learnt many new things like leadership skills, upgraded our technical skills, organizational building, etc. We were also taught that apart from bookish knowledge we should need to upgrade our technical skills with the new generation technology."