Mahira Irfan, 6, who studies in Class 1, has brought into the spotlight her media-shy family and the nondescript Maharajpura Colony in Srinagar’s Batamaloo area. Her video on taxing online classes during the pandemic forced the J&K administration to change its teaching policy this week.
Little Ms. Irfan’s two-storey house has turned into an overnight attraction for locals and the media. “Media men have been lining up to do her interviews,” her father, a businessman, said. “We are not used to it [interviews],” he added.
Earlier this week, Ms. Irfan, finding her 4-hour-long daily online classes taxing, gave vent to her despair in a video which went viral on all social media platforms. She said she did not know about Prime Minister Narendra Modi but was told about him by her father.
“My father told me that it’s Modi sahib who gets to decide on the lockdowns [related to the pandemic]. I decided to address my video to Modi sahib. I am happy the class timing has been reduced to 30 minutes. But I miss my school,” said Ms. Irfan, in a red dress, pausing to collect her thoughts in reply to a question.
In her 45-second extempore message to Mr. Modi, she said, ““Asalam-alaikum Modi sahib. I want to share about what happens to small children. I get elaborate homework, as much as is assigned to senior students. Our classes start at 10 a.m. and end by 2 p.m. Why such prolonged online classes Modi sahib?”
Her appeal found a connect with the L-G Manoj Sinha. “Very adorable complaint. Have directed the school education department to come out with a policy within 48 hours to lighten the burden of homework on school kids,” Mr. Sinha tweeted on last Monday.
In a rare order on June 1, the J&K administration directed all schools to reduce pre-primary and primary online classes to 30 minutes and 90 minutes a day, respectively.
“For the students up to 8th standard, online synchronous learning may be undertaken for not more than two sessions of 30-45 minutes each on working days,” the order, also welcomed by parents, said.
However, the order also caused a controversy. The J&K Education Chamber has demanded roll back of the order, saying “education policies cannot be changed based on a viral video”.
“We have not been consulted [on the decision],” G.N.Var, president of the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir, said.
The office of Directorate of School Education, in a fresh order on Friday, decided to stick to the decision spurred by the girl’s video. “As the visual classes are different from physical classes, it has to be made more enjoyable and more experiential so that the students can develop more interest in academics instead of getting unnecessarily tired and stressed out,” the order read.
It also barred more than three hours of online classes for Classes 9 to 12.