School teacher in Kodagu builds 20-ft classroom atop mango tree to cross connectivity hurdle
Kushalnagar: Prosperity is a great teacher, adversity even greater. Lack of connectivity in times of lockdown has brought out the best in C.S. Satheesha, a primary school teacher in Kodagu district, who has come up with an out-of-the-box solution.
At a time when many crib about lack of internet connectivity, Satheesha, a teacher at Mullur Government Primary School near Shanivarsanthe in Somwarpet Taluk, has built a full-fledged classroom on top of a tree at a height of 20 feet. And perched on the improvised classroom, complete with blackboard and other online teaching materials, he teaches lessons to students and all his sessions are interactive.
Through his ingenuity, Satheesha has touched a nerve in the country where the problem of vanishing phone signals is very real. Getting good connectivity for voice calls, let alone the internet, is a struggle in most parts. Such stories show the lack of penetration of digital access even though India boasts of being the second-largest smartphone market in the world.
Speaking to Star of Mysore through a video message, Satheesha said that the trunk of a mango tree was suitable to build a room-like structure with locally available materials like bamboo, wooden bars — both long and short. Also, many household discarded materials were used. After the basic structure of the room was built, primarily with bamboo, double-layer tarpaulins were covered and haystacks were spread on the top so that it can withstand the rain and also prevent summer heat, he said.
Making it attractive
For the tree house not to sway, support from the ground was given by means of wooden poles for sturdiness. “It took me two months to build the tree house and I completed a majority of the work myself as labourers are not available now. Only the woodwork was entrusted to one carpenter,” he said. The tree house extends from the mango tree branch to the ground and it is supported by wooden pillars with the other side of the mango tree house closed.
After the structure was painted yellow, certain ornamental plants were planted in small pots and the tree house was decorated with locally available materials like the rims and spokes of cycle wheels painted in various colours and also painted bamboo plant holders. Even colourful chairs are placed inside the improvised classroom. Colourful bulbs are fixed to make the evening class more attractive.
On what made him come up with the solution, Satheesha said that inside his home his cell phone screen blips to life one moment and lies dead frozen the next. “It was a hard task. Moreover, I do not have a terrace on top of my house as it is a Mangaluru-tiled house. Even if I got internet signals inside my home, I could not have had a classroom environment due to the noise created by my own children and the sounds of radio and television,” he explained.
Exasperated, just as he was about to give up, he was struck by the thought of climbing a tree to see if getting a few yards closer to the sky made any difference. And it did. That’s how the idea came up.
Satheesha has spent money for the tree house from his own pocket. He has also spent money on purchasing the blackboard and stand, a mobile stand and a focus light so that students can clearly see what he teaches and writes on the blackboard. He teaches from class one to nine and says that the online form of education is here to stay till the pandemic is eradicated.
State Award comes his way
For his innovative methods of teaching, Satheesha has been awarded the State-level Best Teacher Award in the past. During last World Environment Day, Satheesha gave a “Challenge Accepted” task to students through WhatsApp where students were asked to plant various fruit-bearing saplings. The videos of kids planting saplings muddying their hands were captured and uploaded online.
The students responded well and asked their parents to shoot the video as they explained the benefits of that particular fruit plant. “I had uploaded all the videos and had put some of the best ones in my WhatsApp status. The students were thrilled at this prospect,” said Satheesha.
On the International Day of Yoga too, the children demonstrated various yoga postures online after a two-week practice that was held for 30 minutes daily. Satheesha’s online classes start daily with a ‘WhatsApp Challenge’ where little children are asked to name birds, animals, furniture and daily use equipment.
“Practice cards are designed in such a way that a couple of subjects are covered in a single sheet. These cards are then shown to the children and the voice record is sent through WhatsApp mentioning the task. In the evening, the answers are elicited from them. This way learning never stops and I am glad to say that my students wait for such challenges and are equally excited,” he added. As part of his COVID duty, Satheesha visits some areas where his students stay. “Those who do not have smartphones are given physical exercise sheets, lesson assignments and I collect them in the evening. Here too, the response is good,” he said.