When the Covid-19 pandemic first struck India in 2020, schools across the country were the first institutions to be ordered shut by the Central Government. While teachers and students associated with private schools soon migrated to an online format of teaching-learning, stakeholders relying on government schools suffered dearly. To ease pressure on school students and their parents, the Central Government ordered all State Boards to reduce the prescribed syllabus and relaxed examination guidelines. While this move offered relief to all school-related stakeholders, government authorities across all levels knew that this was a temporary solution to a problem that needed to be addressed sustainably.
Since stakeholders associated with private schools seemed to be meeting their academic goals effectively through online education, Central and State Governments across India advising and equipping government school teachers to leverage WhatsApp and other such platforms to keep government school students engaged with educational material created by them. While this approach taken by government school teachers – along with the realization that private school students had already migrated to learning online – pushed several government school students to leverage computers, smartphones and internet connectivity to access education online; not all students had access to the required infrastructure.
As a result, by January 2021, nearly every State Government in India allowed physical lectures to be conducted in schools for students in Grade 9 and above, whilst following necessary Covid-safety norms. However, the joy of learning in-person, amidst the company of your peers, was rather short-lived as a new variant of the virus – named ‘Delta’ – caused a second wave of Covid-19; resulting in discontinuation of physical classes nationwide by April 2021. Once again, school-related stakeholders who had access to requisite devices and connectivity went back to teaching-learning online, whereas their less-fortunate counterparts were cut-off from education till India emerged from the second wave and started reopening schools.
By the time State Governments across India allowed schools to restart physical lectures across all Grades, it was December 2021 and a third variant of Covid-19 – named ‘Omicron’ – had just surfaced in African countries. As schools across the country took a break for their annual year-end holidays, there was a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases across, thanks to the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant in India. In response, as of today, most State Governments have declared school closure for students till Grade 5, with a sizable number imposing such curbs for students till Grade 8, and some even declaring a complete shutdown of schools for all students.
As students with access to devices and connectivity go back to learning online for the third time, and those without it get disconnected from education yet again, the government seems determined to put an end to Covid-19’s onslaught on the academic paths of Indian students. On 3rd January 2022, the Central Government initiated its Covid-19 vaccination drive for teenagers in the age bracket of 15-18, which essentially covers students between Grade 9 to 12 – a formative, but crucial phase in anyone’s academic journey. As of 5th January, State Governments across the country had successfully administered first dose of the vaccine to 1.18 crore students from an estimated 7.4 crore students in this category.
From the looks of it, the government is following a two-pronged approach to strengthen its education system against future attacks by Covid-19. Under this approach, the government has already started vaccinating students between 15-18 ahead of their board examinations, and can soon be expected to inoculate younger students before Academic Year 2022-23. In addition, multiple State Governments have announced free or subsidized devices and internet connectivity to government school students, particularly those between Grade 9 to 12. At its level, the Central Government is also building a repository of educational content in various Indian regional-languages for government school students to access.
Bearing in mind that the Omicron variant showcases milder symptoms in its hosts and spreads faster amongst people than previous strains of Covid-19, one can expect the third wave of this pandemic to run a lot longer and spread much wider than its predecessors. As a result, even though the government has started vaccinating students at a rapid pace, one can expect schools to be closed for physical lectures for the next two-three months atleast; which will certainly affect annual examinations for Academic Year 2021-2022, just the way it did for the last two years. News of more strains emerging in different parts of the world is a matter of serious concern as it can cast shadows over the next academic year as well.
Nobody can say with utmost certainty how this academic year, or the next one, will unfold. However, as someone whose organization has been closely involved in creating Vernacular EdTech solutions for government school students for the last 6 years, I can say with great conviction that structural reforms made by the government due to this pandemic will usher in an era of technology-enabled blended learning for government schools which, in turn, will exponentially improve the quality of education provided to their students, thereby enabling future generations of this country to contribute to the India growth story in a much bigger way than ever before.
The author is the Co-founder of ConnectEd Technologies, which is an edtech social enterprise that specialises in creating tailor-made technologies and deploying large-scale developmental programs
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‘Suspense thriller’ is a genre that leverages itself to the audio space: Anshuman Jha
In this exclusive interview, actor Anshuman Jha talks about his debut in the audio-based medium with the audiobook ‘Bombay Stranglers Ke Khauffnaak Tapes.’ He extensively describes his experience working on the project with writer Piyush Jha.
Actor Anshuman Jha’s debut Audible Original, Bombay Strangler Ke Khauffnaak Tapes, written by author Piyush Jha, is gaining acclaim from the fans of the emerging community of audiobook-lovers. We hosted Anshuman for a frank interview as part of our special series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
We firstly asked the actor about what convinced him to take up his first audio-based project. To this, Anshuman replied, “For an audio debut for me, something had to be unique and exciting enough.” Expressing gratitude for the role, he said, “All credit for it should go to Mr Piyush Jha who’s an exceptional writer. He has written some bestselling books including Mumbaistan which I really like.” According to the actor, Piyush had made up his mind to cast Anshuman as the narrator in the ideation stage itself.
Talking about the audiobook, Anshuman stated, “Bombay Strangler… is essentially a suspense thriller. It’s a genre I personally love. It’s a genre that also leverages itself to the audio space.” He described his experience with the audio-based medium and said, “I have heard it and I was really amazed because it sucks you into the universe, and to think that you don’t have any visuals and still be so mesmerized and so affected by what you’re listening.”
“It can be done simultaneously. So you could be driving and listening; you could be cooking and listening… It’s not something that needs all your focused attention,” said Anshuman while talking about why the new medium is a disruptive force in the entertainment industry.
We then asked Jha about the extra efforts he had to put in to convey expressions using just his voice.”A bit of both because by nature, the way I am, I can’t do anything just like that. So I asked Piyush sir what’s the space,” said the actor. He added, “The beauty about Bombay Strangler… is that it happens over a space of ‘X’ number of days.” Explaining that the script required a lot of tension in the storytelling, Anshuman said, “There had to be a lot of energy.”
Speaking about challenges he had to overcome for his debut role in an audiobook, Anshuman revealed, “For me, the preparation was how to break my pre-conceived notion of being subtle with voice because I had to be subtle in a different way.” Appreciating the support he received from the production team, the actor stated, “I’m very, very grateful that I got to be a part of it.”
For our last question, we asked Anshuman about his plans for 2022, to which he revealed his biggest plan of the year, “I think I’m gonna get married this year, firstly. That’s gonna happen because it’s been long pending and we’ve been waiting for COVID to go.” He further expressed hope of the world getting rid of the pandemic. “Before a flame extinguishes, it gives its last sparks. So I hope it’s the last bit that it’s doing and now it leaves us,” said the actor hopefully.
Watch the full interview here:
I did not know the magnitude of this entire world: Shefali Shah
In this exclusive interview, Shefali Shah tells us about her experience working on her latest project, ‘Human’. She also speaks about her professional relationship with her husband and the series’ producer, Vipul Shah.
Shefali Shah’s latest project, Human, is based on the underbelly of the global pharmaceutical industry. The show has received praises from the audience and critics alike. We hosted Shefali for a frank interview as part of our special series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Our first question to Shefali was about the part that compelled her to take up Human. Shefali said about the script, “When I read it, I was shocked.” She continued, “I have read about trials and I have heard about it, but it is just the surface, you know. There is so much that goes on behind getting a drug from manufacturing it to testing it to getting it into the market.” The actor went on to say about the project, “The script and the role [were] unlike anything I’ve ever done before.”
Speaking about the reality of drug testing in the pharmaceutical industry, Shefali stated, “Yes, we do not know the backstory and we’ll probably never know the entire backstory of it.” She further said, “When you take a cosmetic product, it says, ‘not tested on animals,’ but when you take a strip of medicine, there’s no such disclaimer put on it.” Narrating her amazement on coming across the script involving human drug trials, the actor recounted, “Until I heard the whole theme from Mozez and Vipul, I did not know the magnitude of this entire world…and everything that goes into it.” Commenting on the theme of the series and its relevance in a world marred by a pandemic, Shefali told us, “It’s a very pertinent topic, irrespective of the situation we are in.”
Talking about her love for thriller movies, Shefali said, “I love watching thrillers. As far as doing is concerned, I’m a very greedy actor, and rightfully so, and I want to do every genre possible.”
Describing her professional relationship with her husband and Human producer, Vipul Shah, Shefali said, “Whether it’s from Vipul or somebody else, when a project comes to me, he’s the first one I discuss it [with].” The actor added, “The same goes with Vipul. When he’s planning something, I’m the one he’ll talk to, or I’m probably one of the first ones to read his script.” Stressing upon the professionalism the couple maintains in the industry, Shefali revealed, “I will never tell him to make something for me, one. Two, he will never offer me something if it’s not worth my value.”
“OTT has opened horizons for all creative people. And the best part of it is, it is not determined by the box office,” said Shefali while putting forward her opinion on OTT platforms. She continued the thought, “It is not determined by the prototypes that were required in commercial films: a hero, a heroine, a star system, a dance number, a fight sequence etc.” Shefali described the entertainment industry after the emergence of OTT platforms as “rich and thriving.” She also said, “As an actor, it’s(OTT) opened a completely different world for me.”
Watch the full interview here:
I love the fact that people still call me ‘Anandi’: Avika Gor
In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, Avika shared her experiences of working in the South film industry, her latest movie releases and much more.
Recognized for her stellar performance in the show ‘Balika Vadhu’, actor Avika Gor recently joined us for a fun chat. In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, Avika shared her experience of working in the South film industry, her latest movie releases, and much more.
Speaking about her journey from working as ‘Anandi’ in Balika Vadhu to venturing into the South film industry, Avika Gor said, “The journey has been lovely. The kind of support I have received from my audience has been overwhelming at times because they make me feel like a part of their family. I don’t anybody has ever got this amount of love. I feel blessed.”
The actor further revealed how it has been like to break out of the character of ‘Anandi’ and create her own identity. She said, “I honestly don’t want to get out of that character. I love the fact that people still call me ‘Anandi’. It’s just a part of me and I don’t want to get rid of it. Also, the kind of movies and characters I am approached for, all have a sense of innocence I had when I played ‘Anandi’. It’s been 14 to15 years since I’ve been working and people aren’t bored of me.”
Talking about the reactions she received on her recent movie ‘NET’ available on Zee5, Avika exclaimed, ‘Of course, I loved the response. NET has been of those experimental movies that I was a part of and I never thought people would like me in a thriller. I always thought Rom-Com is my zone and people enjoy me in that, but this movie was an experiment and I am glad I showed the courage to do something very different. Another movie named ‘#BRO’ that I worked for was very different again. Characters that I play are all challenging and it just feels amazing to do a different kind of work and not just one character for 7 to 8 years. This is also the reason why I took a step away from the TV and took up all these challenges.”
When asked if the audience could witness her comeback on TV, the actor revealed that she is currently tied up with a lot of movie work and so her comeback is difficult. Avika then spoke about the difference between the Indian television space and the South film industry. “There is a lot of difference in the two industries, but the biggest similarity that I have found is that people love their work. They work with a lot of passion and that’s there in any industry. I have been blessed to be a part of such amazing teams everywhere that it’s always fun to be around them.”
Lastly, the NET actor suggested the viewers to get themselves vaccinated when they are allowed to.
Young entrepreneurs should not expect their businesses to boom in a short period: Subhashis Kar
In the exclusive conversation, he spoke about how Techbooze can give a kick-start to the startups that are looking for funding and shared his journey as a CEO of the company.
Subhashis Kar, CEO, Techbooze Consultancy recently joined NewsX for an enriching chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, he spoke about how Techbooze can give a kick-start to the startups that are looking for funding and shared his journey as a CEO of the company.
We started the conversation by asking the Subhashis about his startup, Techbooze. Sharing insights about his company, the CEO said, “Techbooze is a 360-degree consultancy service provider. We are also into startup consultancy. We have a headquarter in India and our bases are spread across 53 other nations throughout the globe. Moreover, till now we have funded about 200 to 250 startups across the globe. We provide A to Z facilities, starting from legal facilities to DPR requirements. We provide whatever is required from the initial boundaries to the exit boundaries.”
He further discussed how Techbooze helps startups raise funding for themselves. “There is a very defined process in our company to help startups avail funding. When a startup comes to us, they have to come from a website. Over there they can start up all the startup details with their pitch date and their plans such as business and financial plans. Once they submit the plans, we name it an investors forum. Once a startup is named as an investors forum, the plans of the company are transferred to the respective departments and there they filter it out. Once it is filtered out, a summarized plan is created. After this, the plan is sent to the investor’s forum in the UK called UNILIF (United Nations International Legislation for Investment Forum). It is a pool of around 419 investors worldwide including Capital Tiger Global. Now, if these members of the forum find any startup valuable, they let us know and then we connect with the respective startup. We make further plans which take around 2 to 3 months.”
Subhashis went on to tell us about his journey of becoming the CEO of Techbooze. He revealed, ” Techbooze was a UK-based company company earlier and I used to be a salesman in the company. They later changed the company into a real estate funding company. Thereafter in 2017 end, I saw the booming potential of the startups from the ‘Startup India’ campaign. So, I wanted to explore this segment of the business. When I spoke to my company about my interests, they did not agree with my visions. After that in 2019, along with the board members of the company, we raised some equity funding and we took over this company from the UK-based firm. From there on the journey started and I made an exponential growth.”
Mr. Kar termed his company Techbooze as his ‘baby’. He said, “Techbooze is like my baby, it started in my hands and whatever it is right now, it is still in my hands. I take care of everything in this company including sales, management, and even operations.”
Lastly, the CEO suggested young entrepreneurs not expect their businesses to boom in a short period. He suggested, ” You should have a plan from A to Z. If you require help, companies like ours are there to help you out for free initially. They shouldn’t be focused on the profitability of the company only, instead they should focus on forming a stable idea first.”
My journey started with a door slammed on my face: Chinu Kala
In this exclusive interview, we host the woman whose journey is a rags-to-riches story come true. From a daily income of Rs. 40 on a good day to owning a company with an annual turnover of Rs. 40 crore, Chinu Kala has seen the best and worst of the world.
Chinu Kala is the founder of the imitation jewellery brand, Rubans Accessories. She is an inspiration for women seeking to break the glass ceiling and achieve what they desire. We hosted Kala for an interview as part of our special series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Opening the interview by explaining to the viewers about her brand’s unique name and the meaning behind it, Chinu said, “‘Rubans’ means ribbons in French, and for us, it’s a ribbon that binds the gift of life together.” We were curious to know about Kala’s journey, so she narrated to us, “My journey started long back. I was just 15 years old and I had a tiff with my parents–my father, and now I feel it was, maybe, a regular tiff that every teenager has with their parents but maybe I was too adamant and stubborn.” As a result of the fierce squabble with her father, a “strong-headed” Chinu left her family in her teenage years. Further narrating her story, Kala said, “I just had Rs. 300 in my pocket, I had two pairs of Salwar-Kameez, I took that and I left home.” Chinu spent several days & nights on the platforms of Mumbai Central where Vada Pav replaced the three square meals she used to eat at home.
Kala told us that a kind lady who came to her rescue helped her land a job as a door-to-door salesgirl for household products. Chinu then revealed to us about the experience from her first day at the job. “She just slammed the door on my face,” said the entrepreneur while talking about the lady to whom she was about to make her first sales pitch. “I think that thing made me strong, much tougher,” said Chinu. Finishing her response, Chinu said, “A door slammed on my face, that’s how I started.”
The hardest years of her life taught Chinu a very valuable lesson: “Hunger to survive is a very big motivator.” The entrepreneur told us, “We used to ring the doorbell of hundred houses, and at the end of the day, I used to sell one or two pieces. So I used to get, like, Rs. 20-40 at the end of the day after ringing the doorbell of hundred houses.” She then revealed that she also took up work as a waitress and a receptionist, among other odd jobs, during those years.
For our next question, we asked Kala about how the idea for Rubans came to be, to which she replied, “People had their favourite streets for street shopping of jewellery, people had stores in different cities where they would go and buy jewellery, so I started thinking that why is there no brand that is catering to this entire need of jewellery.” Kala saw this space in the market and started Rubans Accessories which addressed this problem for women.
Kala finished the interview with a special message for female entrepreneurs. She said, “Put your work on a very high pedestal.” Urging women entrepreneurs to not hesitate in making work the top priority among their other duties, Kala said, “Tell the people around you that it’s equally important.”
Watch the full interview here:
TRICOLOUR INSPIRED FASHION IDEAS TO TRY THIS REPUBLIC DAY
Republic Day is right around the corner and for those who are wondering how to seize the spirit of the patriotic day, a gorgeous tricolour-inspired outfit would instantly match your vibe to that of the day.
While the laziest idea would be to grab anything that is white, green or orange, if you plan your outfit a little in advance, you can fashionably stand out from the rest.
1. ORANGE SKIRT
A bright, poppy orange skirt is an investment. Grab one whenever you find it, whether in a mall, a flea market or online. Not only an orange skirt will make you look perfectly dressed for the day, but the vibrant colour would add a note of freshness to your look. Pair it with a white top or a shirt and you are ready to rock, patriotically.
2. GREEN BOTTOMS
Pants, palazzos or shorts the options are many. Choose one which you have available or would prefer based on the weather in your area.
3. EYE MAKEUP AND NAIL ART
This one is for experimenting and stepping beyond the first thought of putting the colours in your outfit.
If you want to play with your makeup, then a tricolour-inspired eyeshadow should do the trick. This is perfect for those who wish to dress as per the theme but do not have any outfit working for them. Nail Art is another exciting, easy and creative idea to style with the tricolour theme.
Jewellery is another great hack for those not interested in choosing their clothes in tricolour. Pieces of jewellery such as earrings, necklaces and rings can add that sparkle and colour to your outfit.
Those who are interested in crafts can also DIY their jewellery using quilling paper and beads.
5. COMBINING ALL THREE
here are ideas of using all three colours together by creating a three-piece outfit, without risking a fashion disaster. You can mix and match in multiple ways
a. A full white outfit paired with a green jacket and an orange handbag.
b. A casual green tee, white lowers and orange shoes.
c. An orange-white cord-set, paired with a green denim jacket.
d. A green puffy jacket, orange scarf, white backpack and your favourite regular jeans.
e. A full green outfit with white shoes and an orange cap.
The final and most essential touch is lots of confidence to carry your look well.
With these gorgeous outfit ideas up your sleeve, you can easily gather compliments at an R-Day get-together and likes on your Instagram profile.
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