Begusarai: With finances at an all-time low due to the COVID-19 lockdown, wheat has been the new cash for farmers in Bihar’s Begusarai district for the past three months.
The farmers even pay the fee in wheat to private tutors, who remain the only hope of education for poor children in the area. There are around 20 odd private tutors in the area.
“With no signs of schools re-opening anytime soon, most parents at the village are dependent on private tutors for the education of our children. Wheat is our cash and several of us give a part of our produce as tuition fee,” Shivjyoti Kumar, a farmer from Nayagaon in Begusarai district, told The Indian Express (TIE).
Shivjyoti further said that many children in the area find it difficult to follow online classes due to poor internet connectivity. “Besides, the one-way nature of the lessons along with outdated content and lack of TV sets among many in the region have found few takers of classes aired on Doordarshan,” he added.
On her part, Shivjyoti’s daughter Nishu is not complaining. “We study seriously when a teacher is present. Self-study does not work beyond a point. We are happy that our parents are so conscious about our education,” she said.
Subodh Singh, the private tutor teaching Shivjyoti’s children, claimed that the monthly rate for one-hour of daily class was Rs 1,000. “I, however, stand out for charging a much lower fee of Rs 200 per month,” he said.
“I teach a total of 50 students and have divided them in 10 batches. I follow social distancing norms and ensure the use of masks in my classes. I teach in open spaces in the village. I am happy to contribute to the cause of education at a time when schools and colleges are shut,” said Singh.
The tutor added that he has no problem with getting wheat as fee because “everyone needs to buy wheat anyway”.
Naresh Singh, another villager, informed about leftover cash in their accounts has been set aside for medical emergency.
When contacted, the Special Project Director of Bihar Education Project Council, Sanjay Singh, told TIE: “We conduct online classes on Doordarshan between 9 am and 3 pm for Classes I to XII, but we do not have a clear idea about how many students are actually following them. Our challenge is to reach out to village students. We are working on building a system that incorporates online and minimum physical presence of teachers.”