Mehedi Hasan is a second-year student at the University of Rajshahi.
Since his admission to the university a year ago, he had been tutoring students at home and thus became a financially independent person, something he had always wanted to be.
He comes from a middle-class family that could afford to provide him with his expenditures. But Mehedi chose to contribute to a family of four members, instead of receiving financial help from home.
Everything was going well for him until coronavirus broke out at the beginning of this year. It had robbed him of all his tuition gigs. Without income, he eventually had to leave his hostel and returned to his home in Nowhata.
He could see that things were not going great anywhere. Prices of commodities are going up while income sources are shrinking. Sitting idle at home amidst this situation was leaving him psychologically disturbed.
A few of his students contacted him, asking for ways to resume studies as gap in studies started worrying them too. On the other hand, some of his friends shared their experiences of being jobless during this pandemic.
This is when the idea of opening an online coaching centre – a platform that benefits both the students and the teachers – flashed through his mind.
When he started working on his idea, he realised that like educational institutes, private tutors or home tutors whose income was dependent on tuitions were also going for online classes.
Though private tuition is not considered a formal sector, a good number of people depend on this for their livelihood. Some of them are students, and some are teachers of schools or colleges.
Mehedi opened a Facebook page named "Online Tuition Rajshahi" and called on home tutors or other tutors to drop their CVs.
Students from different institutes beyond Rajshahi contacted him. But the problem remained in assembling the students as the system was new for all.
One of the teachers who dropped his CV is Kuasha Raihan, a fourth-year student at the University of Rajshahi. His family was greatly dependent on his income he made from tuitions.
Though he submitted his CV, he informed this correspondent that he had started giving out online classes a month before, but would like to be a part of a more organised platform as getting students online is hard.
"I had at least 40 students divided in two batches. I lost all of them in March. I could not sit idle at home after that. So, when one of my students knocked me at the end of May, I suggested tutoring her through messenger video call," Kuasha said.
"I managed to get four more students that way, but the level of income has dropped," he added. Where he was earning Tk 30,000 before corona-virus, his income has dropped to Tk 5,000 now.
Badhon Roy, who used to earn Tk 11,000 a month from tuition before the pandemic, has also dropped his CV with the same intention as Kuasha as his income got wiped out.
"Before pandemic came I was doing well on my own. Now I have no income. I have been using my savings from the last three months because once you start earning on your own, it is hard to ask for even 10 bucks from family," he said.
After losing all his tuitions, he initially joined a health service provider company as a social media query intern. But realising that teaching is his comfort zone, he decided to join an online tuition team.
It is not only university students or young people who are offering online classes; teachers of different schools or colleges are also offering a similar service.
For example, Munia is an eighth-grader in Dhaka. Her school is closed for the last four months and her parents are getting worried as she is getting detached from studies.
They fear the school will suddenly resume activities and announce junior school certificate exam dates.
So her parents, along with some other guardians, requested a senior teacher of the school to teach their children online. They voluntarily taught the teacher how to use Zoom, a video communication software, and invite others.
Now, Munia and her friends stay in touch with studies through these online classes.
Preferring to be anonymous, the teacher said he works at a private school and has not received full salary for the last three months. This is why when the guardians requested him to offer online classes, he agreed.
The downside of the system
All those who are teaching students online admitted that there are multiple downsides to this system.
The first problem they feel is that all the students cannot afford these online classes. Also, not all of them have necessary gadgets to attend such classes and sometimes expensive internet bill becomes a barrier.
Kuasha said he had students who came to him from villages adjacent to Rajshahi town and there is no good broadband connection in those places. "These students are being deprived of education."
Secondly, most of the time, neither students nor their parents are very technology-friendly. So, a lot of time gets wasted in the process.
Above all, the salary of house tutors has fallen.
However, they are carrying on against all odds because that is the only straw of survival they have now.