Auto teacher

Aditi Kumari

On 24 March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown. This suddenly limited the movement of 130 crore people. From production to supply, everything stopped.

During the pandemic when we were locked in our houses, sanitation workers, doctors, police and media continued to work. They took the responsibility to keep us clean, safe and up to date. We call them our “Corona Warriors”. Along with these Corona Warriors, there is another set of warriors fighting this battle, staying at home and working – our teachers!

This is the story of Dheekshita, a model turned teacher. Dheekshita is a primary teacher in Orchids-The International School, Bengaluru. Soon after the lockdown in March, the school management asked her to take online classes. Dheekshita’s biggest challenge was the internet connectivity at home. She tried changing the network service provider to improve connectivity, but it didn’t work. She realized that internet connectivity on the road outside her house was much better, so she started taking classes standing on the road. But standing on the road and teaching under the hot sun was a tiring job.

Dheekshita’s father is an auto-rickshaw driver. Due to the lockdown, his auto-rickshaw was parked outside their house. One particularly exhausting day, Dheekshita thought of sitting in the rickshaw for some time. She tried turning on the video and to her surprise, the internet speed was good.

Dheekshita brought a curtain from her house and hung it in the auto behind her as a backdrop and from that day on the autorickshaw became her virtual classroom.

“The curtain was very important because I teach kids of grades 1 and 2. Many times the parents are there too. The kids are full of excitement and keep asking questions like what is there in the background? Why are you sitting there?”

Seeing her taking classes sitting inside the auto, curious neighbours would often gather around. Some of them even invited Dheekshita to take her classes in their house. They started calling her the “Auto Teacher”.

While the auto teacher had found her teaching space, it wasn’t an ideal one, she had to constantly battle cigarette smoke from the nearby tobacco selling shack. Initially, her parents were very concerned but Dheekshita’s passion and perseverance won them over and they now bring her juice and snacks.

Dheekshita’s story is a true inspiration. A model turned math teacher and now “Auto Teacher”. Despite all the hardships and challenges, she kept working with a smile on her face. Like Dheekshita, there are many teachers in our country for whom the pandemic has been a long journey. Within one day they had to change their traditional teaching style and switch completely to digital teaching methods. Yes, it was challenging in the beginning but the teachers turned the challenge into an opportunity. All they knew was that learning should not stop at any cost. Let us take a moment to appreciate the teachers who learned and taught so gracefully to continue the learning process even during the pandemic.

These are the unsung heroes who have not stopped working for the sake of the future of this country. Yes, they were nervous and their hands were shaking while turning their cameras on for the first time, but once they switched their screens on, there was no looking back!

The author is a colleague of Dheekshita’s, working closely with the teachers of Orchids-The International School, Bengaluru. She can be reached [email protected].

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