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Learning during COVID-19: Barter System Returns to Education in Bihar

Barter System

The Indian Express reports how financial strains force farmers to switch to the age-old barter system for children’s education in Bihar. In Bihar’s Begusarai district, private teachers are paid in quintals of wheat in exchange for their services to the local students.

“Wheat is our cash. Several farmers give wheat as tuition fee on most occasions.The teacher charges Rs 1,000 per month for teaching for an hour daily,” comments a farmer Shivjyoti Singh. Over the last two or three months, teachers have remained at the helm of continuing with education in Bihar.

Several households are devoid of laptops, radios and TVs and are reliant on private teachers as schools remain closed due to COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, poor connectivity or lack of internet facilities has rendered online classes a pipe dream in these areas. As per local residents, lessons broadcasted in somewhat outdated manner on national TV channel Doordarshan has also failed to stay relevant among students.

Village Nayagaon has a population of 3,500 with 1000 school-going children enrolled in nearby government schools. The 20-odd private tutors are bestowed with the responsibility of maintaining the continuum of learning as all other government initiatives have fallen to disuse. Students are assembled either at their own homes or at the teachers’ for daily lessosn.

“I have a total of 50 students and have divided them into 10 batches. I follow social distancing norms and ensure use of masks in my classes. I teach in the open spaces in the village. I am happy to contribute to the cause of education at a time when schools and colleges are shut,” comments Singh.

“We have been conducting 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,” comments Sanjay Singh, Special Project Director, Bihar Education.

The situation is gloomier in the state with about three crore students enrolled in 75,000 government schools.

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