School principal Sapan Kumar from Dumka in Jharkhand teaches children using mud walls as blackboards. Image Credit: Twitter

Patna: An innovative principal from Jharkhand who turned the entire village into a school and mud walls into blackboards has got international attention with a top university from Japan lauding the initiative for helping poor schoolchildren during the COVID-19 period.

Most of the schools had turned to conducting classes online after they were shut due to the lockdown. But poor tribal school children from several villages in Dumka district remained deprived of learning as they had no access to mobile phones at home. In such a situation, a school principal Sapan Kumar invented a new model of teaching which greatly helped the children.

On Wednesday, teachers and students alike from Japan’s Osaka University watched the online demonstration of this teaching model by the Jharkhand school principal and were impressed by his innovative initiative. During the interaction, the school principal shared his experience of how he was compelled to bring the school to the village itself with COVID-19-induced lockdown threatening to destroy the academic career of poor tribal school children who lacked gadgets.

Children use mud walls as blackboards in Dumka, Jharkhand. Image Credit: Twitter

“It’s wonderful, I would like to visit the place to know more about this model,” said Professor Kima Tujino of Osaka University, adding: “This teaching model could be a great help for us too.” Osaka University is one of Japan’s former Imperial Universities and a Designated National University listed as a “Top Type” university in the Top Global University Project.

School principal Kumar said he was very happy to know that his teaching model was now being widely recognized worldwide and being discussed in several countries such as Japan, United States, UK, Canada and Argentina. But when he launched this idea, he just wanted to help the poor schoolchildren, he said.

Children use mud walls as blackboards in Dumka, Jharkhand. Image Credit: Twitter

Kumar said it had been a very difficult task to teach the children, generate interest in study and get them to hold books in their hands. “But his blackboard model has solved this problem. The children happily held chalk in their hands and wrote on the makeshift blackboards whatever they were taught,” the school principal said.

Local media and videos that went viral have shown the school principal teaching school children in a village with a loudspeaker dangling from his shoulder to ensure the students taking their seat on the makeshift bench could clearly hear his instructions. They also show how the mud walls of villagers’ houses were painted with alphabets and turned into blackboards to help the children complete their tasks.

The idea was implemented first during the 90-day COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and subsequently during the second wave in 2021 when all schools remained shut and classes were shifted online to check the spread of COVID-19 infections.