THE coronavirus pandemic has brought about several challenges to the country – access to education was one of them. Schools were shut, and education came to a standstill for many children from underprivileged backgrounds in urban and rural areas.
While “e-Learning” or online classes became indispensable for many children in urban areas, schools and children in rural areas had to face many challenges as they had no access to education. It was a combination of factors – lack of technological know-how, access to hi-speed internet, low digital literacy, unavailability of steady power supply and, most importantly, lack of electronic devices.
A 2020 survey by ASER and NGO Pratham brought a number of facts to light. Some of the findings of the ‘Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)’ are:
- In the week of the survey, 1 in 3 rural children had done no learning activity at all
- Around 20% of rural children did not have textbooks at home by September
- About 70% of rural children did some learning activity. Of these, only 11% or 1 in 10 rural children had access to live online classes
Findings from another survey, titled Myths of Online Education, of over 1,500 public school teachers spread across the states conducted by the Azim Premji Foundation revealed that almost 60% of children could not access online learning methods. With only 24% of Indian households having access to the internet, the success of online learning in India remains a distant dream.
But it doesn’t mean that those from rural areas and underprivileged backgrounds don’t deserve access to education during times of crisis like Covid. Several NGOs have come forward to provide some relief to such children. We profile a few NGOs who have worked extensively to bridge the digital divide:
eVidyaloka Trust is a Bengaluru-based NGO which acts as a bridge between passionate volunteers and underprivileged children in rural India to improve their quality of education through technology.
eVidyaloka has combated the severe shortage of teachers in government schools, and its work has benefitted more than 20,000 children in over 200 remote villages. This has been done by connecting the children to volunteer teachers worldwide through live and interactive classes.
The eVidyaloka model collaborates with Lenovo’s SmarterEd, a multilingual platform, which identifies a rural government school in need of help and connects them to a suitable teacher, virtually. During the pandemic, the foundation has helped provide access to education through remote learning.
You can support their “Back to eVidya School” initiative by giving here.
2. Magic Bus
The Magic Bus India Foundation equips children and young people from the ages of 12 to 18, with the skills and knowledge they need to grow up and move out of poverty and live a fulfilling life. By focusing on life skills such as education and employability, Magic Bus has already trained 30,000 young people and 70% of them have been placed in jobs in the organised sector.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey conducted by the NGO found that, 41% parents in the communities supported by them felt that they will be unable to cover education costs as they saw either a drop in income or had no source of income at all.
To address these problems, the NGO developed a COVID-19 Crisis Recovery Programme that aims to restore families’ incomes. By doing this, the programme ensures that 3 lakh children at risk of dropping out are back in school and complete formal education. Moreover, by securing the livelihoods of 2 lakh families, the NGO will enable them to invest in children’s education by keeping them in school.
You can support their programmes by donating here.
An NGO for education, Smile Foundation works for nearly 15 lakh underprivileged children and their families every year through live welfare projects on education, healthcare, livelihood and women empowerment. One of its notable initiatives – Mission Education – is a national level programme committed to providing basic education and healthcare to underprivileged children.
To tackle the inaccessibility to education for underprivileged children brought about by the pandemic, the Smile Foundation launched an initiative known as “Shiksha Na Ruke”. Under this initiative, the foundation is providing these children with the access to continuous learning through the provision of electronic devices, training teachers for virtual learning, curating educational content suitable for digital platforms and ensuring mental well-being through individual mentoring sessions.
Moreover, Smile conducts community-based cluster classes with proper social distancing to give a sense of school activity. This has helped strengthen the process of bringing students back to school. You can support their efforts here.
The Miracle Foundation improves the quality of life for orphaned and vulnerable children by providing aid to them. The NGO also provides highly specialized training and educational resources for social workers in the childcare ecosystem by partnering with UNICEF. The foundation currently works with close to 300 Child Care Institutions in India (CCIs) to improve the lives of over 15,000 children.
During the pandemic, the foundation launched its “Keep Kids Connected” educational campaign, which aims to provide tablets to 300 children learning from home in India to help them continue their education. These tablets come preloaded with educational material and Wi-Fi cards – with internet connectivity for three months – so that students can connect remotely with their schools and teachers via Zoom.
The foundation has also been strategically carrying out educational activities for children using existing resources. They have been working together with Child Care Institutes (CCIs) to cover the school syllabus and give holistic support in other areas. You can support their initiatives by clicking on this link.
An innovative learning organisation, Pratham is one of India’s largest NGOs working in the field of education. It focuses on qualitative, low-cost and replicable interventions to address gaps in the education system. Pratham’s programmes reach millions of lives each year through directly working with underprivileged children and youth and through large-scale collaborations with the government.
To facilitate education while the schools were shut and ensure that underprivileged children continued to receive education, Pratham launched a daily engagement activity named “Karona, Thodi Masti, Thodi Padhai”. This initiative equips parents to continue their child’s learning, remotely. Hands-on learning activities and educational content on a range of subjects are shared through a series of curated SMS and WhatsApp messages in 11 languages.
The NGO has also partnered with 11 state governments to enable remote learning across the country. This has been achieved by sharing digital resources that government schools can access on various educational platforms being used by them, such as Kolibri. Support Pratham’s initiatives by clicking here.
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Naina is a student currently completing her 12th grade. She enjoys reading, watching Netflix and has a keen interest in Economics. Naina likes to travel, play with her dog, and is an avid foodie!