Due to Covid-19, the majority of children in the programs of Sharana have absolutely no access to digital content or Smart devices neither for education nor for being positively engaged. They remain at home without any form of schooling/education whatsoever since March.
Although slowly since the second week of October, classes have begun in government schools for grades 9 to 12- it will be at least a few more months before the younger children can get back to any sort of formal schooling- this would mean they miss a full year of schooling; which is often the difference between continuing education and therefore given long-lasting positive change a chance, and dropping out for good.
Unfortunately, for the vulnerable sections that we work with at Sharana this is a huge impending risk not to mention other potential problems such as abuse, increased workload at home for girl children, forced to seek a job to supplement family income and several other mental, emotional, social and physical problems.
One thing that has come into the forefront during these last three months more than ever is the power of digital content. At Sharana, we are consciously in this direction of Empowering children and therefore communities through Digital access and knowledge.
We have begun a Digital Empowerment project with a Pilot program with 100 children pursuing their education in government schools in Solai Nagar and surrounding areas, a slum area close to our Social Centre.
This project consists of a fully functional Smart classroom with all required Digital apparatus such as Projector, Sound System and Subject-wise teaching material in the presence of 2 qualified teachers and social workers. These sessions in the centre are being held at the Social centre class-wise for children between grades 5-8 .
This new programme will focus on reaching out to students without digital facilities by connecting with every student on an individual level, conducting online classes as well as through regular visits to the field. This is being done keeping in place all needed Safe practices and Hygiene Protocols such as compulsory wearing of masks, checking of temperature and sanitization of hands, as well as maintaining social distance.
Very importantly, at Sharana- the content covered will be Digital Media/Content that supports the syllabus covered in Government Schools so that the base is strong and clearly understood.
It will also be an attempt to minimize the loss to education and give the children the experience of classroom learning, which is normally tough to replicate in an online learning environment and focus on. Also, special classes will be held to cover basic notions of English and the STEM subjects.
Our plan will stress on quality content as well as quality teaching with the human connection; since the background social and economic problems of the children we work closely with need more than just a teacher; they need someone who understands from where the students come and helps them reach the heights they want to go up to.
We realize that online classes often follow a detached routine of delivering lectures to a mass of students and just playing audio video modules were taking away from the experience of learning.
We at Sharana understand that the experience of going to the school, peer learning, practical classes, visiting the library, learning together and the one to one connection with the teacher cannot be substituted through digital learning, and therefore our programme will aim to address each of these.
- Especially we will make it imperative for every teacher to connect with every student and to address specific problem points the child may have, ranging from lack of understanding, to lack of concentration to physical needs such as hunger and good health.
Children receive a healthy snack and a warm glass of milk during each activity session at Sharana.
While we address Education through Digital Empowerment, we will also:
- – address Awareness Creation via our Seeds of Change program: where we create Awareness through Sports and Games.
- – continue keeping Sharana’s library program open, every day, for children above the ages of 10 to come and pick up any books, to borrow them and take them home. They will be encouraged to read books of vernacular literature, leaf through the drawings, and care for them before returning them and taking other books.
- – continue Sharana’s Art program, where children can come and create art and find an artistic outlet to release their emotions through Art Therapy as well as kindly their Creative energies.
- – also continue our regular Outreach program into the communities we work with on a regular basis.