NAT FM Mehak Lalchandani and Simran2-1590228887541
Mehak Lalchandani and Simran Kanal Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Two best-friends from their Dubai school days have joined up to teach children who have dropped out of afterschool private tuition because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Simran Kanal and Mehak Lalchandani, both 23, are running their newly-founded ‘#PandemicCamp’ to provide free online coaching for CBSE students whose parents can no longer afford private tutors.

CBSE is the Central Board of Secondary Education for Indian schools. Many CBSE students, after school, attend paid private tuition by teachers to cope with studies.

Private tuition in the traditional sense of students meeting teachers at home or training centres has been suspended in the UAE as a precaution against COVID-19. Some private tuition continues online as a paid service, but parents financially hit by the pandemic have withdrawn their children from such classes.

NAT FM Mehak Lalchandani and Simran-1590228885224
Mehak Lalchandani and Simran Kanal Image Credit: Supplied

Private tutors can charge anywhere from Dh250 to Dh500 per month, per subject, on average.

Now, Pandemic Camp is offering free Zoom lessons in English, Maths and Hindi for grades one to five, taught by former CBSE students Kanal and Lalchandani, both 2014 alumni of The Millennium School in Dubai.

Community service

They have gained various experiences as volunteer teachers over the years.

“We’re both very compassionate, both as students and as teachers. We came across parents who have had to withdraw their children from private tuition, so this camp is a way we wanted to give back to society,” said Kanal, a freelance journalist and writer who works for an online marketplace platform.

Lalchandani, a finance degree holder who is studying for her Chartered Financial Analyst exam (level 3), said: “Since we’re very familiar with the CBSE curriculum, that is why we chose CBSE and are catering to primary school grades.”

Kanal’s skill in English and Lalchandani’s grasp of Maths naturally led to the two subjects taught through the camp (with basic support for Hindi subject too).

“These two are the subjects in primary that students always look out for, and that’s why we’re focusing on them,” Kanal said.

How does it work?

Once a parent gets in touch through pandemiccamp@gmail.com, they get a form to fill regarding their child’s needs and basic details. Then Kanal or Lalchandani contacts the parent to work out details of lesson schedules – typically an hour-long class once a week, held one-to-one, per subject.

Lalchandani said the sudden switch to distance learning has not been easy for students, teachers and parents. “In a classroom, you have 30 students and you have to personally go to a student and see what they’re doing in their book. But when you have 30 students online, then it’s very difficult for that one-on-one help,” she added.

Kanal said compared to her school days, students today in grade four or five have “tremendous assignments” that often need close help by parents, who themselves have to learn new digital skills.

Lalchandani agreed “the pressure” on students, from teachers and parents, has increased “since the time when we were at school”. The disruption from the pandemic has only added to the complexities and “different students and parents are handling it differently”, she said.