Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Editor’s Speak

The Editor’s Speak

From Offline to Online Classes
Being the editor of Manzil’s newsletter brings with it several challenges and responsibilities, especially when the editor herself is learning on the job what the role of an editor is. In this special edition of the newsletter being released during the COVID-19 crisis in the country, we have attempted to bring forth the beauty of the spirit of Manzillions despite the challenges that have come our way.

The virus has demanded the bitter medicine of a lockdown, bitter as it has left many people jobless, especially those who are on daily wages, or informal jobs not backed by contracts. In the working class from which Manzillions mostly come from, the nature of work itself is such that it just cannot be Work From Home. Even though the Government has clearly told all employers to not cut anyone’s salary, halfway through the month of April, still many parents have neither got their March salaries, nor do they have any clarity if they will, not to mention future earnings.Many of them have little or no savings to fall back upon.Out of dignity, asking for help is difficult, and there is a lot of anxiety and concern in many households about what the future holds for them.

Naturally the children are not immune to the atmosphere of constant worrying in their homes, especially since the lockdown keeps families close together 24x7. Stuck in small homes, unable to meet friends or play outdoors, they are the hidden silent victims of COVID-19 lockdown. Manzil is their learning community; we are trying to create virtual meeting spaces to help them not get affected and continue their learning. On the very first day of the lockdown, our core team, which as you know are our own senior students (including me), got together on a zoom call to discuss how we could adapt to this extraordinary situation. Since then we have been remote-meeting every single morning, and have gradually figured out the way forward, starting many online sessions which are helping Manzillions focus on their growth, utilizing their time well rather than getting entrapped in the spiral of negative news coverage, which was making everyone anxious. We are reaching out to our students to find out which families need food help so we can organize for the same. Core member Vandana is designing an online mental health session with the help of a volunteer. This special newsletter is to share with you many stories about how we are holding Manzil classes using zoom, whatsapp text, google classroom, etc, and learning our way to success there, expanding everyone’s positivity and imagination in these bleak times.

Whereas online classes brought a positive experience to students, they also came face to face with many new challenges.  It is hard for them to participate in these virtual classes from within the small spaces of their homes, inhabited by large families, all of whom depend on a single data connection accessed through mobile phones. Families do not have costly broadband connections, and with mostly pre-paid mobiles,experience low bandwidth because of lower-gen networks (non-4G). There is limited data, limited number of devices and multiple users. Some students’ homes are in locations where connectivity is poor. Rarely do they have private space in the house for focused and undistracted learning. Yet the passion for learning is strong enough to overcome these situational factors. For instance, 35 students including core members have signed up for a 3-month online Personal Mastery program under the mentorship of Neha Bhabhi, Amit Bhaiya, Ravi Bhaiya and Gurbani.

Beyond the difficult times that we all are suffering, our students have gained certain positive personal experiences. They have become more cooperative and are helping their mothers with their house work, especially boys. They are now realizing how much their mothers do for the family. They have even become good listeners and gained more interest in their parents’ conversations. This brings them closer to each other and has helped in developing stronger bonds.

We are happy to report that as far as we know, no Manzillion or family member is infected. They are safe and following Government directions dutifully and are even making others around them aware of them. Wherever possible, the older students are helping the vulnerable in their vicinity, even assisting reporters stuck without transport to drive them to locations where they need to report from ( contribute this way, they maintain very high standards of safety precautions themselves, and have got themselves curfew passes.

Kotla School which is a pre-primary school, the first center of Manzil, led by Aunty ji (Mrs.Indira Gulati who is 85 years old), has been influenced by our youth empowerment center practices.All the four teachers -Manita, Anjali ji, Hemlata ji and Uma ji- along with Mrs. Gulati meet twice a week through zoom app which they were taught by Neha Bhabhi and share new teaching aids which will be helpful after the Kotla school reopens.

The beautiful thing about Manzil is that we are a community standing together and fighting against the global crisis with each other’s support. Even more than ensuring uninterrupted learning, we are reaching out to connect to ensure uninterrupted community. After all, this is a time for physical distancing and not social distancing.In any crisis, the greatest source of strength for any of us is the belief and knowledge based on our lived experience that others care for us. The essence of community is that we care for each other. Manzil as a safe space continues even if virtually.

---Tulsi Kohli, 19th April 2020

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