Friday, March 24

Virtual classes rekindle schoolkids’ bond with grandparents in the lockdown

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One of Namita Roy’s biggest regrets is not being able to complete her graduation. She was 13 when her father passed away and the circumstances compelled her to quit her education and get married at the age of 17. After almost six decades, the 71-year-old grandmother has started feeling like a child once again. When her grandson’s school shifted to virtual classes in the lockdown, Namita suddenly found a way to realise her long pending dream. As Rishi (name changed) attends online classes, she supervises him as a guardian, trying to learn maths, history and geography lessons. “I’m struggling a bit because of my weak English, but Rishi helps me a lot. He is even teaching me how to use a smartphone and computer!” she exclaimed. In exchange, Namita takes Rishi on a trip to the magical lands – where Bangoma and Bangomi have all the answers and a smart Tuntuni (tailorbird) teaches a lesson to the king – through her excellent storytelling skills.
While the lockdown has brought reasons to complain for many, it is also helping to rekindle the age-old bond between grandparents and grandchildren, which was on the decline in the fast-paced world brought to a sudden halt by
the pandemic.

Grandparents revisit childhood

Most schools ask for parental supervision during online classes. With many working parents staying away since Unlock 1.0, grandparents have taken over the job. Gouri Chakraborty, a retired school teacher, has become the new best friend of Aditri Chakraborty, a Class I student, both of whose parents are working. Gouri not just accompanies Aditri during her online classes but also thoroughly enjoys the virtual classroom. “After my retirement in 2013, I never expected to experience the classroom atmosphere again. But my granddaughter has made it possible,” said Gouri.

After completing her schooling, Pronomi Halder, 75, enrolled on a graduation course from Vivekananda College for Women, but she could not continue till the end. “Now, when I accompany my granddaughter Anandi for her online classes, I realise that education has become much simpler. We used to learn the same things in complicated ways. Modern teaching techniques have made things much easier. It feels great to be a part of the classroom once again,” she smiled.

Double bonanza for kids

The process is a double bonanza for the children who are not just getting the invaluable company of their grandparents, but also learning about age-old traditions, games and fables, which in turn is helping them gain a new perspective. Aditri, who till March didn’t know what Kumir Danga was, now spends her evenings playing the traditional game of Bengal with Gouri. They use the doormats as danga (land) and the floor as water. Not just Kumir Danga, Aditri has started enjoying many other traditional Bengali games. Besides, she also learnt about Pagla Dashu and Tagore’s Birpurush from her beloved grandmother in the lockdown months.
Similarly, Prithyraj Dey Sarkar, a Class IV student of a south Kolkata school, recently learnt about the 108 names of Lord Krishna and Jatayu, the brave bird, thanks to his grandfather, Hiranmoy Sarkar. “Dadabhai tells me stories from the Mahabharata and tales of Aesop. But more than those I love listening to stories from his childhood. I still can’t believe he could climb a coconut tree!” said Prithyraj.
Anandi too enjoys stories about her grandmother’s childhood, especially what all Pronomi’s grandfather had to go through while establishing Behala Girls’ High School.

Tech lessons for the elderly

This traffic of knowledge, however, is not one-way. While the children are learning about old traditions, the grandparents are becoming more tech savvy. Hiranmoy, who always chose to stay away from smartphones and computers because he found it utterly confusing, bought a smartphone in the lockdown and can now write and send emails too. Meanwhile, Aditri is making sure her grandmother learns how to click and share photos on WhatsApp. “Though I’ve always stayed away from anything related to technology, I had to learn a few things about the latest technology to supervise Aditri. Now she is adamant that I learn it properly,” said Gouri.

‘Grandparents spend quality time with kids’

Grandparents work as an emotional support system for the child, which is very important for the child’s development. Besides, grandparents are probably the only members of the family who can spend quality time with children. While the child plays the leader and controls the content of the time, both of them enjoy the time equally. During quality time, the caregiver will not push the child to learn something. We often see that most parents fail to do this because of their anxieties. They inadvertently try to teach something to the child and that makes the quality time boring. But grandparents can do this easily and that’s why their company is so important and often craved by the children.

The company of the grandparents is excellent until they become the reason for conflict in parenting. Say, if the mother is scolding the child for doing something wrong and the grandmother suddenly intervenes and tries to stop the mother. This creates confusion for the child. If this can be avoided, then there is nothing like the company of grandparents.

— Dr Anirban Ray, practising psychologist

Source: Times of India

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