‘I missed the sound of the school bell’

Shut for nearly a year due to the pandemic, schools reopened in Bihar on March 1.
Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih spoke to 10-11 year olds about their year away from school and what it feels like to be back.

The night before school was to reopen after 11 months, Radhe Pandey, 11, a Class 4 student, was both excited and nervous.

She had received a message from the school in the last week of February that classes would resume from March 1.

Much had changed in the year of the pandemic and just as much as she was looking forward to meeting friends and teachers after a year’s online teaching, she was also nervous about the oral examinations that would begin soon after.

Radhe’s mother told her to try on the uniform to check if she had outgrown it and polish her shoes. A mask was kept alongside the grey tunic. The books were arranged in the school bag.

“I was happy to see my classroom and teachers, but I was very sad at the same time because my best friend has not come to school,” she says.

Several students had returned to school in coloured clothes because they had outgrown their uniforms and the new set that had been given to the tailor was yet not ready.

Anik Kumar, 11, a student of Class 5, had worn his elder cousin’s uniform who used to study in the same school before moving to another school.

The tailor was to give him a new pair of uniform in a couple of days. Giving a glimpse of his routine in the long months away from school, he said he woke up early and went for a walk daily with his father before settling down for his online studies from 10 am to 1pm.

He used his parents’ phone, but got a laptop October onwards for online school work. “I also read Jungle Book. Mowgli is my favourite character,” he says. He also learnt to make burger, pizza and made French fries with his mother.

“In the evenings I performed magic shows for the family after learning some tricks from India’s Got Talent.”

Agrim Kashyap, 10, a student of Class 4, said he would do his online school work from 9-12 noon and would revise the portion every evening.

He played volleyball and cricket in the evenings. In the past year he tried learning piano through the ORG 2021 app and read the first four volumes of the Harry Potter series.

“I can play Sare Jaha Se Accha and would like a piano for my birthday,” he says.

Ten-year-old Siddhi Pranay Tiwari, a Class 4 student, woke up at 5 am and studied till 7, again picking up school classes from 9 till lunchtime. She also had a tuition class, something that most other students also followed.

She played on the terrace of her home and had made a delicate photo frame out of paper during the time she was away from school.

The children say they remained busy with school work and other activities during the week, but found Sundays boring.

Rishabh Kumar’s family moved to their village for several months during which he also experienced the floods. “I saw snakes and other animals, birds and trees, but I was happy to return to my home and to school,” he says. “Sometimes there was no electricity which I did not like.”

The children say their parents made sure that they followed a daily study schedule which included both online school and tuitions at home.

Radhe Pandey says her family had converted a room into a study room for the children in the joint family. She used her mother’s phone for online classes between 9 am-12 pm, tuition between 2 pm-3 pm and homework from 6 pm to 7 pm.

“Inspite of Corona, our joint family celebrated all the festivals with extra energy and enthusiasm. We also made a photo album of all the festivals,” says Radhe, who went to hip hop dance class before the pandemic and shared pictures of the festivities in her home.

Now that they are back in school, the children have got used to getting their temperatures taken at the gate, hands sanitised and sitting at a distance in class.

“We spoke to our friends on conference calls over the phone, but it is good to be back,” says Radhe, “I had missed the sound of the school bell.”

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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