Covid-19 crisis is unprecedented and has caused severe damage to health, lives, and livelihoods of billions across the world. In education, while those with resources are able to fill some gaps through the plethora of online content and learning services, children of poor are even more vulnerable. Schools are closed (and may remain closed for months), parents have fewer resources and the opportunities to learn are curtailed because of social distancing and related norms. The situation demands creative solutions to ensure children continue to learn and their life chances are not affected.
Various models of distance learning are being attempted across the globe to deal with the present crisis. The selection of the right technology and right delivery model is important to ensure that poor people with limited access to the internet, or smartphones do not get excluded widening the prevalent educational inequity. The involvement of parents/caregivers, elder siblings, and community youths who are closer to children becomes extremely critical to provide the last mile assistance. The delivery mechanisms must provide space for their training and capacity building to facilitate the delivery of learning.
The article describes the experiences of one of such community based learning models, with the aid of technology, implemented by I-Saksham Education and Learning Foundation (i-Saksham) in Jamui, and Munger, two left-wing extremism affected districts of Bihar. The objective is to evoke discussions on possible models of educational response in such critical times, and partner with like-minded individuals/organizations to collectively fight the crisis.
i-Saksham Fellowship Program
i-Saksham provides quality primary education to children by building community edu-leaders (local youths, mainly females or different-abled) through a 2-year fellowship program. These edu-leaders provide supplementary education in nearby government primary schools as a fellow volunteer to enrich the educational experiences of children and work with the community to enhance their participation and ownership.
Reaching out to parents to assess the ground situation
After the declaration of lockdown, i-Saksham conducted a telephonic survey with 500 parents to understand the prevailing situation and learning practices during the lockdown. The data, interestingly, revealed that 70% of children were engaged in some sort of learning activities at home and were being helped by parents/caregivers. Further, while all surveyed families had basic phones, 50% of children’s’ families had smartphones/ jio-phones which they were happy to share for a couple of hours for learning.