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SHILLONG | SEPT 06, 2020:
By Laxmi Chyrmang
The phrase – 'When one door closes, another opens' applies aptly to this young boy from Meghalaya, who, after being forced to temporarily give up his passion for swimming due to the COVID-19 situation, developed a new interest to exercise his brain.
Meet 14-year-old Cleric Jayden Wanniang of Mawlai Nongmali in Shillong Meghalaya, a young boy who completed a total of 106 online programmes during the lockdown period. He is a class 8 student of Seven Set Higher Secondary School, Shillong.
Wanniang, whose interests are swimming and other sporting activities, had to put on hold his passion given the pandemic. But the boredom that came along with it was something he couldn't stand which was why he opted to brush up on his knowledge in the academic sense of the term.
With schools being shut, movement restricted and while other people are trying to figure out how to spend their day, this young boy judiciously and productively made use of his time by attending online programmes.
He started attending these programmes on July 21 and has so far completed 106 online programmes including 14 online courses, 77 webinars (both at National level and International level), and 15 online quizzes.
"During the Lockdown, I start my day at 6 am by doing my normal exercises, keeping health first (giving priority to his health) and study for my academic classes until 10.00 am. Then, I would attend webinars as per scheduled and linked provided from various sources. When attending these webinars and online courses, I would always keep in my mind that there must be a balance between these activities," said Wanniang.
Some online courses are with the leading organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Gaples Institution Great learning Academy, Harvard Medical University and many other International and National programmes.
"I was first motivated by my parents to take up these webinars. Seeing my mother preparing for online classes, assignments, organising webinars for her college students inspired me to take up such webinars for myself and thinking it will help to develop my co-curricular educational activities," he said.
Talking about his swimming career, the 14-yr-old Wanniang said, "I started swimming when I was 12. Since then, my passion for swimming creeps into my veins and I love this sport as it revives the smartness and activeness in me."
"However, to succeed as a professional swimmer, I had to enrol at True North Swimming Academy at Mission Compound where I was trained by Sir Berlin who taught me various strokes and techniques."
Wanniang trained under the mentorship of Sir Berlin every day for five months. He entered the professional arena when he participated in the 5th Junior and Sub-junior Swimming Competition organised by the Meghalaya Swimming Association in June last year.
"The competition was a tough one with splendid swimmers from all around Meghalaya. However, no one stopped me from chasing my dreams. My hard work paid off as I was awarded the 'Best swimmer' of the Competition winning four Gold medals, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medals," he recalled.
A few months later, another chapter opened in his life whereby he got a chance to take part in the 15th Senior Swimming Competition held from September 6 to 7, 2019.
"It was my first time competing with adults and professional swimmers. Nonetheless, at 13-years-old my determination helped me to bag three Bronze medals," he said.
Winning these competitions triggered him to practice for more hours, balancing his day to day routine as hunger for success grows. "I was selected once again to take part in the Meghalaya Games which was held from 17- 21st of February 2020 and with (to my) utter dismay, the swimming competition was an 'Open Category' to all swimmers. However, this does not stop me as I won a silver medal in the Breaststroke category," he said.
"I wish that one day I could represent my state and even my country, keeping in mind the National Games to be held in our state in the year 2022," an optimistic Wanning said.
Wanniang explained the challenges in balancing between the two and termed it as a 'tough task' to accomplish both and to come out with flying colours.
When asked how the present COVID situation acted as a deterrent to his plans of achieving his goals, Wanniang said, "It's very disheartening and sad as I can't get access to my daily routine except for the dry land exercises."
The pandemic has not only made a tremendous impact on the economy of the state but also affected the lives of aspirational students as it brought their careers to a halt.
When asked whether he misses his classroom lessons, Wanniang replied in the affirmative. "The environment of the Second home is being missed, the pandemic has compelled students to go through various lessons on their own where errors are taken for granted with minimal corrections and few excuses brought to the limelight," he said.
"No doubt we may have online classes through various platforms, but many students are facing several issues when attending these online classes. Some have problems with the availability of advanced devices, some with internet connectivity and many other problems. In the end, no matter how advanced the world has become, online classes can never replace classroom teaching.
It is heartbreaking, especially for class X & XII students whose academic career is about to kick start. The only question that troubles me is "What is my fate as a student if this pandemic continues? All I wish right now is for a vaccine manufactured by God through our Prayers."