Ashwin (name changed) from Kayakkodi panchayat in Kozhikode district was an intelligent child but had never attended school as he suffered from combined immunodeficiency syndrome. Special educators from the then Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (now Samagra Shiksha, Kerala) visited him a few times a month for home schooling. However, this was nowhere near the learning hours a child would normally receive at school.
The Samagra Shiksha’s Kunnummal block resource center then set up a BSNL broadband-linked CCTV mechanism so that Ashwin could view the lessons he had taken at school in real time on his laptop at home. That was four years ago. Today he completed his SSLC and Plus Two with over 60% points.
After Ashwin, two students who were homeschooled received a smartphone so they could follow the lessons live via video calling. This enabled two-way interaction between teacher and student and gauged student responsiveness. Interaction with classmates was also possible.
Another bedridden student with acute cerebral palsy in Naripetta prepared for the SSLC exams while watching classes at home, while a child with muscular dystrophy who used to attend school but had to drop out because his condition was also progressing rapidly benefited from the virtual classroom initiative .
Encouraged by such tryouts and the online classes being held in the state during COVID-19, the Samagra Shiksha has decided to set up virtual classrooms for two primary/secondary students in each of the 168 block resource centers, for a total of 336 students. This is to ensure that bright students with a keen interest in academics who are unable to enjoy classroom learning due to motor disabilities or illnesses that compromise their immunity can now gain the experience of sitting at home.
As part of this, 360-degree wearable cameras will be set up in classrooms so that school experiences, lessons and other activities can be viewed digitally via a tablet/smartphone linked to WiFi. Lessons can be recorded and communication with teachers and other students is also possible.
Under Samagra Shiksha’s Changathikootam project, classmates of these otherwise gifted students can help them understand and improve their academic and extracurricular needs and skills and improve the virtual classroom mechanism.
Disabled students who received tablets during COVID-19 are also involved in the initiative.