CORONAVIRUS TIMES: Online education is on, classrooms are out…chalk is also out of favor!
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Modi in blunder land messed up the lockdown schedule. For a Saturday following the week when Goa which prided itself on being a Green Zone had to be declared as containment zone. For a Saturday following the week when the pattern of education in the country seemed to be poised dramatically. For a Saturday following the week when the ghar wapasi found that home was not quite as sweet as the exile in different part of India. For a Saturday following the week when besides for Covid19, Goa has to fight cyclones and choked drains.
And a few stray thoughts on the genius of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for getting everything wrong. If it was Modi giving us a speech he would have perhaps said “Mitro bahut ulta pulta ho gaya.” He may even have sought an apology from the people as he did for the lockdown mess. As far back as in September 2019 when the first signals of Covid19 were clear, the Modi government did nothing. Even when Rome and the Vatican were reeling under the effect of the lockdown India did not take any preventive action. Despite knowing that the coronavirus was a pandemic which would spread to every country in the world.
WHEN there were less than one lakh cases of Covid19 in the entire world Modi and his Health Minister did not act. It was only towards the end of March when Covid19 had already acquired pandemic proportions that Modi acted. There were four lockdowns announced in succession making for a total of four lockdown till the latest lockdown 5.0. Lockdown 5.0 is not a lockdown at all but a lifting of all the lockdowns. Nobody has the sense of timing that Narendra Modi has. He never waits till a fire starts before pouring more kerosene on it. The number of cases have risen to 2,07,615 as on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. All the coronaviruses which were kept locked down are finally having a ball. The coronavirus at a time when the rate of infection is the highest since the virus came to India can now happily wonder around the streets excepting between 9pm and 5pm.
If the coronavirus wants Goa’s famous kaju fenny it can pick up a bottle, sit on a Goan beach and do a bottoms-up. Leaving an empty broken bottle behind behind like the domestic tourists do. Soon the coronavirus will be able to dine in style in restaurants though they will not be allowed to have a drink while dining. All the gods in Goa are happy. The locks have been removed and the residents of Goa can visit any god they want. But because of the one meter social distance rule they may have to make an appointment with any god.
AND a few stray thoughts on Goa’s Mangor hill in port town Vasco da Gama now being declared a containment zone. Which is not surprising as Mangor hill is so crowded that it has no space for even human beings. It can only accommodate the tiny invisible coronavirus. The number of coronavirus cases averaged 30 since the first case on April 4, 2020. The state attracted cases from across the border, from Maharashtra and Karnataka, with some even driving into the State in their plush SUVs. But the containment is a different game all together.
HISTORICALLY an area is declared a containment zone when a large number of cases suddenly break out in a particular locality. As in Dharavi in Mumbai, the largest slum in Asia, where on an average there are 500 new cases daily. Goa prided itself on the infrastructure it set up for dealing with coronavirus patients. Never mind that none of the thermal guns at the Covid19 OPD at the GMC worked when I took a colleague there for a test. The only person who knew how to use the thermal gun was the watchmen at the Dean’s office. I do not know whether the Dean himself knows how to use a thermal gun. Goa could be like Texas in USA where everyone uses real guns and not thermal guns. Indeed, right now blacks are on riot throughout the United States firing at whites and vice versa.
However, in a containment area you are sealed. If five people in your five-stored building even if they belong to the same family get Covid19, the whole building is shut down as containment area. Nobody can enter the building. Nobody can leave the building alone unless they are accompanied by police or heath officials. The greater concern is that the containment at Mangor hill is a dangerous sign of community infection starting in Goa. Till Mangor hill and its vicinity were declared a containment area, the cases declared positive were of outsiders with a travel history. The Mangor cases are the first where the transmission is between locals and themselves. This is far more dangerous as it means that even if bhaile don’t come to Goa you can get infected. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has banned inter-state travel between Goa and Maharashtra and Karnataka. This is possibly because earlier the whole of Mumbai was declared as a Red Zone.
But zones have gone and the states have been given the liberty to take their own decisions. Mumbai has over thousand containment areas of which 800 plus are in Dharavi. Now starts the hunt officially described as tracing the infected. This involves investigating all friends and relatives of the patient infected with coronavirus. This could include poder, barbers, traders, vegetable vendors and newspaper agents and even the local traffic police. Though not in Goa the police in Delhi and Mumbai have become the largest number of victims of coronavirus.
AND a few stray thoughts on education taking a dramatic turn. Traditionally we have been used to the old blackboard and chalk. Which the teachers used to write with and which the students sometimes threw at their teachers or each other. But since the coronavirus has arrived the students cannot any longer seat on the old benches. They may not even be able to seat in the old classrooms. In the new classrooms of the future there will be no blackboards. There will only be projectors and screens. We will be entering the era of high-tech online learning and teaching. The teacher will not contact you physically but through the screen. Similarly the student will learn and make notes from what appears on the screen. Every time there is a change in the education system. It is the teacher who suffers. The students will have fun because there may or may not be the teacher in the classroom. The students are at a big advantage because they have been familiar with online learning for atleast a decade. Or since the smartphones came into the markets and became cheap enough for most students to afford. The difference is that unlike early when students could be punished for carrying smartphones they may even be rewarded. ‘
It is our personal experience that students who have smartphones are much better informed about the world than the ordinary zone. Particularly if the subject concerned has been featured in a popular Hindi film. There is nothing that a student does not know about news or views as long as they have been referred to in a film. A newspaper publisher and printer were complaining to me bitterly about the steep fall in the sale of the Marathi paper. Generation next of the Marathi community has switched to the smart phone as their source of news. Historically online teacher has been popular in the top institutions in the country like the IITs and the Indian Institutes of Management. Indeed even in medicine we have tele-medicine where doctors update their knowledge watching complicated new operations performed by the celebrity doctors organised offcourse by the pharma companies. The children who will suffer are the under privilege who are not used to online learning. I must confess that I am one of them as most of us who were 60 and above are both computer and smartphone illiterate. The great advantage in online learning is that visual material like crafts and charts can be used in large numbers in visual learning and teaching. The universal dream of a one world where all of us could come together whichever country we lived in could come through. With online learning there is no reason why management students from Dempe college should not be listening to lectures by Nobel price laureates from all over the world. Hopefully online teaching and learning will destroy the biases and prejudices based on caste, community and creed. It will also bring down the expenses of providing quality education to even the poorest student much simpler.
ghar wapasis adamant
And a few stray thoughts on the plight of the ghar wapasis. There are still migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and Jharkhand who are desperate to get back home. One of the local papers carried a photograph of a set a parents and their two children who were carrying heavy bags on their head while walking to Karmali station looking for train. All the special trains are ranged for migrants take off from the Karmali stations. There are however two major problems. The schedules are not sent even to the newspapers leave alone being put up at the railway stations. Even worse the migrants have to register online for their berth in the air condition berths which will carry them home. The problem is they do not have computers and the phones they have are not capable of doing online registration. Or the migrants do not know how to do online registration on their mobiles. I don’t blame them because when I want to book an air ticket or want to summon an Ola cab in Mumbai. I don’t know how to use my cab. I yet to understand what an app is and more specifically the app that I am told I should download it under threat of action by the government.
When migrants reached Karmali station on a Friday they were told that the train they wanted was on Tuesday. There are many instances where the special train that a group of migrants want took off from Margao and Vasco and not Karmali. It is only the Konkan Railway trains which arrive and depart from Karmali and Margao railway stations. We do not know whether it is a case of overbooking or plain bribery. In many cases the migrants find that the ticket they had booked online is not there on the charts of the railways.
Though Railway staff is supposed to provide water and food for the ghar wapasi till they reach their destination, there have been many worst case scenarios when the migrant workers travelling did not get anything. When there is overcrowding or migrants missing a bus they are taken to the Shyama Mukherjee Stadium or the Parrikar Stadium or the Pednem grounds from where they are transported to the stations concerned. They have to undergo a Covid19 test before they board the train. In theory the states to which they are returning have to make the arrangements for them to go back to their home towns. Unfortunately, this does not happen and there is no reception party when they get home to their towns or villages. This poses a big risk to the home town whether it is Patna or Varanasi, as the ghar wapasi are expected to be tested before being allowed to go to their home town and also do a 14 day quarantine.
It has come to light that many ghar wapasi had Covid19 when they tested in their home town. This is because the incubation period for Covid19 is a minimum of 14 days and though they may have not tested positive at the starting stage they may acquire the infection during the many hours logn journey. When the ghar wapsi reach home nobody kills the fatted calf or greets them with garlands. Instead they are tested again and sentenced to 14 days home quarantine before they can step out of the house. Their families often are unhappy about the ghar wapasi back home. Till the ghar wapasi were toiling in Mumbai or Goa under very harsh conditions, working 16 hours a day and sending money to their relatives — they were heroes. But who wants ghar wapsi without job and no longer having able to send money to buy gold for the daughter’s wedding or fees for the brother’s education.
nisarga joins covid19
AND a last stray thought on Goa already struggling with Covid19 and now having to fight with Nisarga cyclone backlash. The cyclone was travelling at the speed of 280km from Panjim. No doubt people moving from Panjim to Margao or Mapusa will be happy because they will get a boost and may be directed at their destination without using their vehicles. But many houses are so fragile and power towers and lines so old that there may be severe damage.
Even in the normal course all the nallah are choked and flooded. You can imagine what has happe1ned to the shacks and boats on the beaches as a result of the cyclone called Nisarga. It is not known what effect if any that Nisarga will have on the ghar wapasi.