Saathi 2020-2021

11. Virtual Study Circle

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

– James Keller

Sharing your knowledge does not mean less for you but more for others. That was precisely the case in Saathi’s upcoming initiative.

*March 2020*

A: “These exams are making me go crazy. So stressful.”

B: “Don’t worry re, it’ll be over soon. The last batch of exams for this year, then we’ll go to SY.”

C: “Yeah! The first year is over too soon. This year was hectic. Corona kicked us hard.”

D: “Good thing we have revision sessions amongst us, else it would’ve been harder for us. We’ll do good in this final”

B: “Revision sessions… yeah…. Hey!!! Why don’t we have these sessions in Saathi too?!?!?”

A: “Yess!!! Why didn’t we think about this sooner?”

D: “We should discuss this with the team. They’ll love the idea.”

*The next day*

E: “Hi guys. You kept this meeting for?”

F: “Yeah, anything urgent?”

B: “So we have an idea for Saathi….. (sharing the idea).”

D: “What do you think about it?”

E, F, G, H, I: “It is amazing!!!! We should have thought about this sooner!”

F: “We must discuss this with our teacher coordinator.”

G: “Guys, I think we should wait… with what is happening in the other states, our final exams might also get canceled.”

I: I don’t think we should wait, we are living in an uncertain time, and with the exams coming, we shouldn’t waste much time. Things are already difficult for everyone. The blind students will benefit from this arrangement.”

C: “What you both have said is true, but I think we should wait for 2-3 days. I think someone will post soon an official notice.”

All: “Ok, let’s wait for some time.”

*Some days later*

A: “Did you guys read the latest notice on the college website?!?!?!”

B: “Exams canceled (doing a weird dance).”

C: “Yessss!!! Party!!!!!!”

G: “I knew this would happen!!! See, I am always right! You guys need to believe me more.”

I: “It has got nothing to do with you or your predictions (rolling eyes), but with the current situation.”

F: “But guys, the idea is too good to pass. How about we implement it for the next academic year? Revision sessions for the upcoming exams.”

B: “I agree! We should start from the next academic year! Now that the exams are over, it’ll be pointless to introduce this activity now, and we might also lose the impact it would have.”

C: “Yeah, you’re right. When does the next batch of FY come? We can start then.”

A: “So it’s decided then. We’ll start when the next batch of students comes in! Then we’ll have a new batch of volunteers and students. It’ll be easier to manage.”

All: (Agreeing)

*August 2020*

H: “Our juniors have come!”

I: “And so have our next batch of volunteers.”

B: “Yeah, yesterday all our new specially-abled students got registered with Saathi.”

A: “The lectures have also begun. These teachers are too fast.”

F: “I think it’s time to implement our idea.”

G: “Wait! Wait! Wait! But what should we call this initiative??”

E: “How about… Virtual Study Circle.”

With the pandemic, several gears shifted. Classroom learning shifted to E-learning. Where doubts were being cleared face to face, we now lost studying in nothingness. Notes which were barely being recorded were now being recorded intensely. A drastic but profound change had taken place in the workings of Saathi. And with this change came a significant initiative: the Virtual Study Circle.

This initiative took its shape in March 2020 and was executed in August 2020. An idea of having revision sessions for the final exams blossomed into something which wasn’t envisioned, something not for a particular period, but into something consistent, something regular, and something to look forward to.

In this activity, students and volunteers engaged in effective academic discussions covering topics that were taught during lectures conducted by the college. Over the week, a maximum of 4 people held sessions and discussed concepts either on Microsoft Teams or through a conference call. They dedicated an hour of their day to these sessions, which solved all doubts not only of the students but also the volunteers. Around 35 volunteers stepped up to take part in this initiative and conducted nearly 300 sessions, making it an incredible year.

The subjects which were studied and explored were Geography, Political Science, Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Compulsory English, History, Geography, and Sociology. Since the blind students belonged to the Arts department, volunteers from FYBA, SYBA, and TYBA, belonging to both English and Marathi mediums, were involved in this initiative.

Volunteers would read out the material and explain it, clearing the doubts along the way. They would also explain the PPTs and graphs provided by the professors and would also hold MCQ sessions so that they imprinted the material in their minds. One volunteer from FYBA said, “We have covered around 90% of the syllabus in these sessions, which were held mostly on weekends. We kept in mind the time availability of every participant, fortunately, though time never became an issue for us.”

When asked about the difficulties they faced, she replied, “The chief difficulty we faced was the lack of material. Not everyone had the books which were being referred to and when we thought about recordings, they were also not readily available but took time to be produced. Since everything was online, it had become a tedious job for us to gather the material, as had there been a library, collection of materials would’ve become easier for us. The next difficulty we faced was when we had to explain the pictorial representations in the subject. It was challenging to explain the pictures, graphs, and numbers to the blind students. Internet connectivity was also an issue, but we had learned how to get past it by conducting our sessions via conference calls.”

When asked about the effectiveness and productiveness of the initiative, another volunteer replied, “As the study circle was on a virtual platform, it was accessible to all the participants. Considering good connections and availability of devices, it facilitated fruitful discussions on a non-classroom basis, making it semi-formal. It also helped the students academically, in case they weren’t able to cope up with the formal e-classrooms which were largely time-limited and became unapproachable. This initiative surely provided them with a simple hand to cope up with the syllabus. As a volunteer, it also helped me give an entire revision of my studies.”

Since this initiative was held in a semi-formal, almost informal way, the comfort level was not an issue between the volunteers and the students. Rather, it paved a way for new friendships and bonds, cherished by all. This also increased the involvement of the participants as one volunteer said, “We looked forward to the sessions. We discussed not only studies but everything under the sun. We tightened our bond and became close friends.

During the End Semester Exam for the first term, a program called Rapid Revision Session was introduced. As the name suggests, participants from FYBA revised the material in a swift but thorough manner and then conducted MCQ sessions. This happened daily for 1 hour in January.

This initiative helped not only on an academic level but also on a personal and social level. The volunteers felt an increase in their confidence and in their ability to express themselves. Both the volunteers and students capably put forth their thoughts. They could also broaden their perspective, as inputs came from every person. Their decision-making quality was put to test, along with their creativity, clarity, and fluency of speech, open-mindedness, and ability to listen. They learned how to conduct themselves in such social scenarios.

Considering the efficiency of this initiative, with no doubt this activity will be conducted in the next academic year. Making sure that all the recordings are available and the material collated, this activity will create a tremendous impact on all the participants.

A blind student quoted Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” He said, “During this tough time we needed something special and because of the talented coordinators of Saathi we got the same. I thank all the Saathi volunteers as they made themselves available for this initiative and a big thanks to the coordinators for conceiving this idea.”

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