"Without pens, pencils and copies, how will we study?"

With online classes in full swing, children share how a dearth of stationery items is impacting their study

By Pallavi Ghosh
Published: Thursday 18 June 2020
As schools have remained closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have been conducting online classes across the country to ensure students keep up with their syllabus. (Image: iStock)

Faizan is a Class XII student from Srinagar, Kashmir. Since March 19, his school has remained shut due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Online classes started on April 8 and the flow of study and assignments resumed. But as assignments started pouring in, he was confronted with a problem. There was a lack of stationery items since all the shops were closed.

With online classes in full swing, Faizan struggled to keep up with the syllabus covered by his teacher due to a dearth of stationery items like notebooks, highlighters, pens and pencils.

“Making notes while the teacher is dictating on the phone is anyway difficult. The voice keeps breaking. And if you run out of pages in your notebook or your pen runs dry, there is a break in your learning and you can’t do anything but wait for the items to be available,” said Faizan.

Shops are now open but Faizan still remembers the difficulties he faced until April end, when stationery items were not readily available. He hopes that he doesn’t have to face a similar situation in future.

In May, Sanksar, a Class XI student of Don Bosco School, in West Bengal’s Siliguri had a similar experience. Shops were closed and he had run out assignment sheets.

“We use punched paper sheets that can be easily arranged in files for assignments, but I had run out of them. I knew what to write but where could I have written it,” said Sanskar. The crisis was eventually resolved after a local shopkeeper, who has good relations with his family, agreed to help.

“We had to request him to open his shop just so we can buy the files from him. Luckily, he agreed and I was able to carry on with my studies un-interrupted,” said Sanskar.

Shops have opened and there is no problem of stationery items now, but Sanskar still does not know when his school will re-open.

A similar situation was faced by Kajal, Manju and Laima (surnames withheld upon request) who are BA students of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in New Delhi. They shared how students who did not have paper/sheets to write their assignment had to wait for the shops to re-open.

By the first week of April, shops did open but students had to wait for a long time to write their assignments. Those who had sheets also faced difficulties. They had to install a mobile app called CamScanner and share scanned copies of their assignments with teachers. Some of them even had to borrow phones to share their work, the students added.

“We were supposed to submit our assignments by April 30 but thankfully, the deadline was extended to May 31 first, and then again to June 15,” said Kajal.

Education is dependent on multiple factors – the availability of stationery items being one of them. There have been multiple reports about poor connectivity and mobile phone accessibility and how these have adversely impacted learning among students. However, the sudden break in the supply of stationery items during the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the lives of students across the country.

Of course, as we proceed several unexplored factors would pop up and hopefully, our collective knowledge would help us learn and adapt to a post-COVID world.

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