Covid-19 has threatened the future of thousands of children, particularly those from the disadvantaged communities due to closure of schools. They are at the risk of dropping out of education for having missed a major part of their academic lessons. The children who need extra academic support are the most vulnerable and may never return to school, eventually falling into the trap of exploitation like child labour and child marriage.
A group of around 60 Youth Fellows in Bihar and Jharkhand are harnessing the power of digital mediums to ensure the continuity of education for such children. They are aspiring and promising youth between the age group of 18 and 24 years serving as part-time teachers. They provide online after-school support to improve the performance of children from the disadvantaged communities enrolled in VI to X grades.
Realising that physical classrooms are no more a possibility due to COVID-19, they record teaching sessions on topics related to Mathematics, Science and English and share them with children over Whatsapp and YouTube. This is revolutionizing not only the forms of pedagogy but also the ways of learning for the children.
The Youth Fellows were selected by Plan India a year ago to increase the learning outcomes of children who need extra academic support. They were mentored by Plan India experts to cultivate knowledge, skills, and mind-sets necessary to act as a teacher.
When the schools were announced shut due to the lockdown, Plan India’s state teams collaborated with the School Management Committees, and parents and decided to continue educational learning of children through digital mediums like WhatsApp, YouTube etc.
The initiative has been successful in engaging children in the absence of classroom learning experience. With one Youth Fellow attached to 30-40 children, the Fellows are now supporting around 2000 children, the majority of whom are girls. This is being done in more than 80 villages of Samastipur, Muzzafarpur, Saran, Vaishali and Jamui districts of Bihar and Khunti and West Singhum in Jharkhand. They also take out 2-3 hours in a day and thrice in a week to teach in a physical set up while taking all the Covid-19 precautionary measures like social distancing, use of masks, handwashing, etc.
“Taking these classes has made me realise that I can fulfil my dream of becoming a teacher. I too get to learn a lot while teaching the children,” says Preeti, one such Youth Fellow from Shivanandpur village in Samastipur, Bihar. Through this experience of online teaching, the Youth Fellows are getting an intense exposure to the problems of quality education necessary to bring the change and equality for girls and boys in the same.