Science educators launch online classes for visually impaired students of Varanasi blind school
This heart-warming initiative launched by Raka Ray Mandal and her husband Prof B.P. Mandal is our #StoryOfTheWeek. The couple, who are science educators in Varanasi, have started online classes for visually impaired students of a local residential boys’ school after many sections were closed due to the pandemic.
It would be no exaggeration to call Raka Ray Mandal and husband Prof. B.P Mandal are true humanitarians.
Mrs Mandal is a science teacher and her husband Prof. Mandal a faculty member in the Physics Department at Benaras Hindu University (BHU). For nearly two months now, the couple, who are science educators, are conducting online classes for visually impaired students of Shri Hanuman Prasad Poddar School for Blinds in Durgakund, Varanasi. The residential boys’ school closed the middle and secondary sections after the coronavirus pandemic.
When the Mandals heard about this, they immediately came forward to offer online classes in all subjects for the students. So far over 50 students have enrolled.
Over 200 visually impaired students taught
“We are science educators conducting online classes in STEM for visually impaired students. We started this five years ago after learning that visually impaired children are denied science education because of their disability. We never imagined this could happen in India!”, says Mrs Mandal.
Over the years students from cities outside Varanasi have enrolled in these classes which are at charge.
Many schools in Varanasi were forced to shut down due to funding issues after the pandemic. When the visually impaired students of SHPP School for Blinds approached us for help, we could not say no in such an unprecedented situation. We said we would help to the extent we can. From our point of view, it is important for children to learn. As science educators, it is our privilege to teach these children.- Raka Ray Mandal, Science Teacher
Students, teachers offer support
Supporting the Mandals in this initiative are Dr Shanthala of Vividha Foundation, schoolteachers as well as BHU students who have volunteered their services. There are many parents who have stepped forward to pay for Internet services. Apart from STEM, there are classes in English, History, Hindi, Civics and Geography, to name a few.
Shilpa Malhotra from Alwar, Rajasthan is a teacher volunteer. “I teach English to students of classes 7 and 11. This is the first time I am teaching visually impaired children and love the opportunity. There are many challenges in helping them visualise grammar, but they are very responsive and interested”.
Sunidhi Kumari is a BHU student and member of Drishti, a college group which reaches out to visually impaired children. “When we heard about Raka ma’am efforts we wanted to help out. I teach English to students of classes 9, 10 and 12. Their foundation in English is a little weak and I am happy to be able to help them improve their knowledge”.
Sandeep, a visually impaired Class 8 student, is relieved and happy that he has been able to keep up with the academic curriculum. “Many other schools are yet to even start online classes but due to these sessions by Raka ma’am and other teachers I have not missed out”. Arshad Khan, a Class 11 student of SHPP School also finds the online classes helpful. “I am relearning many subjects like English, Political Science, History and Journal Physics. I am so happy to be able to continue with my studies during lockdown”.
Support the initiative
Geetanjali, who recently completed her masters in physics, teaches students of classes 7-9. “Physics is a totally experimental subject that needs visual understanding and I am impressed by their imagination power. It is superb and they give me samples of their own”.
Mrs Mandal says she is flooded by requests from many visually impaired students but needs more volunteer support.
“We need more volunteers who can help us provide quality education to these children. They have specific needs in terms of language, and we have to make ourselves capable of reaching out to them”.
If you would like to offer support in the form of volunteering, tactile textbooks/assistive devices, or internet support to teachers, contact +91-99353-46097 . You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org
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