One of the biggest and most long-lasting effects of COVID-19 is the changes it has brought about in the education system. The centuries-old, chalk and talk teaching model was transformed overnight into a tech-savvy, digital model that uses video calls, online classes and virtual assignments. But many still do not have access to the online mode of schooling due to the digital divide that exists in our society. Ms. Mayanka Sharma’s Primary School based in Chanepur Chhabilepur, Mainpuri also falls in one such area where digital literacy and solutions are hard to reach. But, during the pandemic, she took it upon herself to ensure that the academic continuity of students is maintained and launched a series of initiatives, which in turn transformed her Government School into a Model School for everyone to look up to.
Transforming a Government School into a Model School
At present, Ms. Mayanka serves as the head teacher of her government school in Uttar Pradesh’s Chanepur village. When she initially joined the school as a teacher, she was upset over its dilapidated condition. Also, the only way to reach the school was through farms, which was inaccessible during the rainy season. She realised the need to do something for the betterment of the school, which in turn, will help the students at large.
With this vision in mind, Ms. Mayanka with the help of students, teachers, officials and the people residing in the area made efforts to transform the school without any financial aid. She motivated the students as well as teachers to renovate the school and further convinced the people to allow the building a road to the school to ensure a brighter future for their kids.
As Ms. Mayanka quotes, many teachers who have been posted to the school in the past, got themselves transferred to other schools due to the aforementioned reasons. She too had an option to get transferred to other schools but chose to stay back and transform the very same school into a model school.
After two years of her untiring efforts, the school has now become an inspiration for many. The school is now known for its innovative teaching methods. These include classroom activities and the School Book of Records.
As explained by Ms. Mayanka, the aim of the classroom activities is to help students excel in co-scholastic areas such as painting, dancing, singing and so on, along with scholastic areas. The strips of cardboard having questions related to the academic topics are prepared by the teachers. When a topic is finished, the strips are distributed amongst the students who claim that they have understood the chapter well and are asked to solve it. This helps the teachers in focussing more on the weaker students who have not retained the concepts well.
The school also has a book of records, School Book of Records, similar to the other record-holding books such as the Limca Book of Records and holds the records made by the students such as the maximum number of tables learnt by a student, names of all the districts of a state learnt by a student and more. The students also take part in social rallies and awareness campaigns such as Women Empowerment, Save Daughters, Child Safety and more. These innovative methods used by the school for an enhanced teaching-learning process under the leadership of Ms. Mayanka transformed it into a Model School.
Continuity of learning amid a global health pandemic
"We should never give up and always move forward by finding new ways," says Ms. Mayanka.
As a teacher, she always wished and worked for the successful future of her students. Even the pandemic couldn't stop her from imparting knowledge to the students. During the pandemic period, she launched a series of initiatives that inspired and motivated others also to join hands with her to ensure that her students are able to continue their studies from the safety of their homes. Some of the key initiatives launched by her as listed below:
- Apki Kaksha Apke Ghar initiative
The closure of schools and universities to contain the pandemic affected the studies of the students worldwide. While online learning became the new normal, the underprivileged students suffered due to lack of resources. To bridge this gap and ensure learning for all, she started an initiative called 'Apki Kaksha Apke Ghar'.
The initiative was started through the students who had access to smartphones with the objective of encouraging digital learning among students. Ms. Mayanka made videos and uploaded them to the social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube. The students helped her in circulating these videos to underprivileged students. The initiative was a big success and was covered by several media agencies.
- DIY Whiteboard
A common issue that most teachers faced across India was access to the whiteboard amid the strict COVID-19 induced lockdown. To help such teachers, Ms. Mayanka made a DIY whiteboard and shared it with them through social media platforms. The small but impactful effort made by her was widely acknowledged.
- Wall of Knowledge
Amid the pandemic, Ms. Mayanka made painstaking efforts and motivated the educated youth of the area to ensure continuity of education among others. Ms. Mayanka makes a work plan every day based on the academic syllabus for the students of her school and sends them to the aforementioned people who further write them on the DIY whiteboard which are hung outside the walls of their homes.
The students, as per their comfort, note down the work from the wall of knowledge, go back home and learn the same. The initiative is as per COVID-19 protocols of social distancing as there are no fixed timings to note down the work. Not only youths but the parents too joined the initiative, making a larger impact on the society as the wall of learning is not limited to academic learning of students but also aware the people about various issues, the current one being COVID-19 pandemic, its impact and safety measures.
- Mohalla classes
It is well established that there's no substitute for physical learning. Thus, to ensure the same while following COVID-19 protocols, the mohalla classes came into play with the aim 'each one teaches ten'. The educated youths of the area were motivated to join the initiative and what started as a small effort snowballed into a larger initiative. Around 8-10 teachers came forward to join hands by sending the educational videos and study material to these people who further teach the students. The work done by the students is sent to the teachers for checking.
- Mere Hastakshar Meri Pehchan
When Ms. Mayanka went to the nearby villages to take Mohalla classes, she was appalled that the females did not know how to sign. In a bid to push them towards literacy, she taught the women how to sign and gave responsibility to her students to teach their mothers. The efforts were recognised by many media houses and widely appreciated by the people.
- Effective use of social media
In order to fight the novel coronavirus, Ms. Mayanka, with the help of social media, made efforts to create awareness among the students as well as parents about the pandemic, its impact and safety measures. She has also uploaded the academic syllabus on social media platforms for better reach among the students.
Awards and Accolades
Due to her unending efforts in varied fields, from overhauling the school to empowering women, Ms. Mayanka has received several awards. These are mentioned below:
- National Innovation Award 2020 by Hon. Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar for zero-investment innovations in the education sector.
- National Innovation Award 2019 by Hon. Minister of Education Mr. Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank for her innovative teaching methods.
- Ms. Mayanaka was selected for the National Conference on leadership practices in Schools by the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration in 2019.
- Her research case was selected by NCERT for the national conference on school improvement on the theme of Putting the Child First. She was also invited for the live discussion on the NCERT Official TV channel for discussion about her innovative ideas on School Leadership Development in 2019.
- Governor/State Teacher Award for 2018 by Hon. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mr. Yogi Adityanath for the betterment of school and society.
- For her initiatives involving nature and environment, she received a state-level certificate from Wipro on the topic of Garbage and sustainability.
- Basic Education Department of Mainpuri awarded her the Utkrisht Shikshak Award for the year 2018-19.
Mayanka Sharma is a finalist for Outstanding Educational Leader Award Because…
Ms. Mayanka not only ensured academic learning of the students but also enhanced their creative side. She also worked towards the betterment of society and convinced the parents in rural areas to send their daughters to school, thereby empowering the women. Despite significant challenges faced by grassroot educators, Ms. Mayanka has gone beyond the mile and has displayed conspicuous leadership during difficult times. In doing so, she has effected large scale impact and has emerged as an inspiration for many.