Manjusmita Panda may be the only Odia woman to run her own school in the picturesque county of Kent in south east England. Seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Kent has produced renowned figures such has William Harvey, the first person to discover blood circulation, and William Caxton, the first person to set up a printing press in England.
Manjusmita taught in several schools in New Delhi before leaving for UK about 20 years ago along with her husband and children.
Demonstrating great enterprise, she soon took over the running of Little Gems Montessori School in Kent after gaining experience in a few schools in England.
The coronavirus pandemic has now forced the UK government to order all schools to be closed to check the spread of the virus. With her school closed, Manjusmita took over to interacting with her students online.
“At first, I found it a bit challenging, but soon eased into a routine. I hold webinars twice a week for the students and parents as it gives them a sense of continuity and also enables them to study and do practical work at home rather than getting bored,” she said.
Besides, Manjusmita is also honing her culinary skills during this time. “I am also cooking and baking a lot these days especially dabbling with new recipes,” she said.
The forced lockdown has also led her to go back to her old hobbies. “Reading is a habit which had taken a back seat because of an extremely busy life. So I am trying to reignite the spirit. My daughter has been very kind to provide me some good books,” she shared.
Gardening being one of her passions, Manjusmita has a virtual riot of colours and scents in her house garden this Spring. “I have had lots of flowers blooming including roses, daffodils and tulips.”
Ironically while confined to her house during the lockdown, she feels, “the world has become more reachable through social media”.
“I am taking the opportunity to stay connected with friends and families across the globe and knowing everybody’s wellbeing is a great relief,” she added.
She said she was practising yoga and meditation too to help her stay “positive and relaxed in this anxious time”.
The best thing you can do whilst at home, according to Manjusmita, is keep yourself busy, divert your mind, whether it’s reading, exercising or learning new hobbies.
“Staying at home is a luxury many of us cannot afford in our day to day lives. Though the pandemic is getting worse, try to look on the positive side and stay safe,” she concluded.