Shahnaz Ahmad, Chairperson and Managing Trustee of Springdale High School, Jorhat, Assam, recently joined NewsX for an exclusive interview segment. Addressing the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Ms Ahmed said “We stay in the Northeast, i.e., in Assam, when we first heard about this word, Covid-19 or coronavirus, it was a very new word to us. So we didn’t take this whole thing very seriously”. According to Shahnaz, they thought it was just a virus initially and it would go fast but that didn’t really happen.

Shahnaz said, “We run institutions which has got to do with education and the most important thing we have in school are children and learning, so we thought that everything is going to close down but somehow it will come back again, it might take a month or more and it will come back. But, when it was not coming back, we started thinking about it because the learning has to go on”.

Shahnaz Ahmed said that they were dealing with humans and their brains and they needed to carry on otherwise, they would become stagnant. She said, “So we all sat down and as a leader of the school and people who really can think, we thought, let us find out some options as to how can we carry on with our learning without disturbing the students, so we thought about it and started talking to each other only on the phone because we were all locked inside, we could not meet anybody”.

According to Shahnaz, when they started talking, they found out a solution to this. She said, “The solution was, let us go with online classes. But, we never knew how to do online classes and that was the best part of it. To learn something called online classes at this age was something new for us”.

Talking about how Shahnaz made the process of transition to online classes smooth for both, teachers and students, Shahnaz said, “When we thought about these online classes then we got together and we started making modules because till then our school had been closed, exams were just over, our admissions were just starting but it closed down”. Shahnaz said that when it closed down, there were no way that books would be given out, so they formed their own curriculum.

They designed their own curriculum without books, said Shahnaz. She told her teachers to look at the aptitude of the students as she was sure that the previous teachers knew all the aptitude, talents, reports and asked them to share the reports with the new teachers. She said, “So they started forming the module for the online classes because we could not deal with the students by Zoom as most of them have been going up to the villages, some have gone off for vacations and must not have carried their laptops, it was just a ball from the blue, so the only way that we could go were by these online classes on WhatsApp within a very very simple way because we need to now make the children used to this thing, we need to educate the parents first only then the children will be able to carry on with these classes since we started from the prep classes upto class 10, i.e., from the age group of 3.5 to the age group of 15, so there is a great transformation of ages, a great transition of people. So we had to be very careful as the emotional side also has to be looked at”.

Talking about finding opportunity in the pandemic, Shahnaz said, “Every dark cloud has a silver light, we must know how to creep into that dark cloud and find out the best things that can be done. Let us be optimistic, let us be positive”. According to her, they have learnt a lot, they have learnt a digital form of teaching at this age. Shahnaz said that if there’s no obstacle in life, there’s going to be no spiking. She said, “only when we have obstacles, then we find how to deal with life because crisis does change things and it always changes for the better”.

At Springdale High School, the teachers are conducting regular sessions with the parents and students to address their doubts, said Shahnaz. According to Shahnaz, “We have set the target to complete the syllabus by November.

Shahnaz quoted, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. She said that when this pandemic arrived, they were all locked inside, but they never gave up. She said, “Not only education, but every sector has found a plan B because it became the necessity and when, it became the necessity, the invention had started. In the end, Shahnaz concluded by delivering her message to all students to remain positive and determined. She said, “I would tell students to remain calm and remain very strong. I’ll also tell them to be forward, focused and create goals which they can achieve”.