Indian teacher turns streets into classrooms

This is what a classroom looks like in a remote, small tribal village on the eastern tip of India.

34-year-old Deep Narayan Nayak has painted blackboards on the walls of houses and taught children on the streets for the past year after local schools shut down due to lockdown restrictions in March 2020.

While many children in cities have been able to learn through online classes, some children in remote area have gone months without opening schoolbooks.

The reasons ranged from not owning a smartphone, having poor mobile connectivity, to not having the money to pay for an internet connection.

"We are teaching children everything - how to maintain social distancing, how to wear a mask, what is the importance of masks and hand washing. The children came forward and participated in this initiative and they are also educating others."

Nayak now has about 60 students, most of whom are first-generation learners.

He was worried that they would not return to education system if they didn't continue with school.

Affectionately known as the "Teacher of the Street," parents and villagers are grateful to Nayak.

This is Kiran Turi, the mother of a student in Nayak's class.

"The education of our children stopped ever since the lockdown was imposed. The children used to just loiter around. The teacher came and started teaching them. It's been two years since the teacher started teaching the students and even the parents."

Schools across the country have gradually begun reopening last month.

An August survey of nearly 1,400 schoolchildren done by a scholars' group roadscholarz.net found that in rural areas, only 8% were studying online regularly, 37% were not studying at all, and about half were unable to read more than a few words.

Epidemiologists and social scientists are calling for schools to open fully to prevent further loss of learning in children.

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