Despite the physical stand still that has affected many countries across the globe, life goes on and we must evolve to overcome the challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. Many areas of life have been affected, but one of the most problematic areas is education.
Due to physical restrictions brought about by COVID-19 the new academic year is under way online. But what does that mean for those in rural communities with little or no access to the electronic devices they need to take part in digital learning? The sad reality is that most will fall behind and/or drop out of education which may significantly decrease their quality of life.
As an NGO our (Thinksharp Foundation) vision is to bridge the Rural-Urban education divide in India, and after identifying the above, there has never been a more important time to do so. Our first step to bridge this divide has been the implementation of a model of education called StudyMall which will provide educational tablets to 70 children from grades 4 – 7 in Z.P. School, Gorhe Budruk village, Haveli, Pune. These tablets are essential to promote and enable education in rural areas. They will help them connect with their teachers to attend online classes and will also have a library of 1200 books to read along with other educational apps. This will facilitate engaging study online and offline.
With a progressive initiative like this comes a large funding necessity. The initiative has seen support from far and wide with incredible contributions and awareness raised by other children. In particular we must thank some of The Young Changemakers from Tribes for Good – Kabir, Pradyna, Pranav, Kashish, Navyashree, Neel, Vansh, Aarnav and Abhimanyu who have raised over INR 400,000 on Milaap crowdfunding platform in order to bridge the digital education divide!
“The project was very enriching. We were able to experience first-hand what social businesses do, what I as a Young Changemaker can do for society, and the sustainable development goal we’re trying to impact. At first, I was apprehensive about how we would fund our campaign. But with the guidance of the facilitators, I was able to overcome this hurdle and raise almost 50 thousand rupees individually. It was also very heartwarming to hear from the Thinksharp team and be appreciated for our efforts.” ~ Navyashree
“I was very much fascinated by the work they (Thinksharp) were doing to bridge the rural – urban education divide. The organisation was introducing the concept of Study Malls to the children in rural Maharashtra by giving access to better educational infrastructure such as digital learning tools, library and other educational resources for children and teachers. I created some creatives and visuals to post on social media and wrote my content so that people can relate to it and know for what cause they are donating.” ~ Kashish
TribesforGOOD is a platform for individuals to learn and take action on ‘real issues’ and due to their unparalleled action to try and solve some of these issues their fundraising will provide 10-15 tablets to provide educational opportunities like their own. Although there is still a way to go, this provides a promising start to an essential initiative!
Coronavirus Pandemic has made world come to a standstill. Even though it has been 3 months of lockdown, there is not complete recovery or change of situation.
Every industry including education sector has stopped working. Considering that there is no immediate vaccine or treatment in near future, the option we are left with is to face the situation together and find creative and effective solutions.
Usually in India the school reopens in June every year after summer holidays. However, considering this Coronavirus pandemic, restarting schools will aggravate the situation. But, on the other hand, keeping schools closed and children locked at home is also not a solution. Already the disruption of examinations and schools has affected children’s interest and slowed down the academics.
To find a balanced solution to this problem of loss of education of children, Thinksharp Foundation conducted a survey in 50 (Zilla Parished Schools) rural Government schools in Maharashtra.
We noted that these schools are trying their best to conduct school syllabus and avoid loss of interest of children via online method. They use online methods such as WhatsApp, zoom sessions etc. However, they are able to reach only 20% to 25% children due to various reasons. Few of the common reasons are parents do not have smart phones, or even if they have, the phones are not available when the online classes are conducted, network non availability, poor connection, electricity cut so phones are not charged etc. Hence only online classes cannot be the effective solution in rural schools.
We then discussed this problem and reached out for solutions to teachers, educationists, parents and other community members. Few solutions suggested are listed below:
Govt should continue to broadcast syllabus on television. This will ensure that maximum children can have access and continue their academic syllabus study.
Teachers should reach out to parents and share creative ideas of teaching academics at home.
We should educate children on continuation of education in such situations of epidemics and pandemics.
We as a community should come together, teachers reaching out to volunteers, parents and students coming together.
While we present few findings of survey on how corona affected education and share solutions, we still welcome comments regarding more solutions.
Today, we all are fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, it has costed us human lives, caused economic loss, loss of our freedom, motivation and much more. While every sector/industry is facing losses and challenges due to COVID-19, I am going to discuss about challenges and loss in educational sector especially rural education in this blog. And also open up a dialogue on how to address this challenges.
Currently, due to COVID-19, exams are postponed, schools, colleges, universities are closed. In the beginning they were closed without further notice but it was assumed it will be for short period of time. However, looking at the bleak future, where we do not know when will we get cure or vaccine, everybody has started finding solutions in terms continuing classes via digital medium i.e webinars/video conferencing etc.
One key factor to understand here is the above digital medium is being used by private,international and urban education institutes. But the rural schools, specifically govt rural schools are lagging way behind.
We already know rural govt schools lag behind in infrastructure e.g. but not limited to lack of digital infrastructure (computers, projectors etc) poor teacher student ratio, low attendance, parents who are unaware of importance of education and lack of their efforts to help their children get educated, financially backward families, non availability of continuous electricity and so on. All this factors make it a teacher dependent education system in rural govt schools, now to replace that with digital platform due to COVID-19 is challenging. On top of it, even if we decide to implement digital/online learning , there is lack of computers, internet, personal mobiles/ devices to connect video calling, webinars etc.
Rural govt schools are currently closed due to summer holidays, ideally they should re open in June first week as per every years process. But this year due to COVID-19, there is no clarity. The situation may result in extension of lock down or even if not, we have still lost a lot of valuable time and this schools may have lost time to finish exams, curriculum, and covering that will take efforts and time.
To prepare for smooth transition of learning for rural children which got disturbed due to COVID-19, we need to push ourselves and think of solutions of making digital learning available to rural children. We have been doing just that in 50 rural schools already. However we realize we were able to provide only digital projector and few laptops. But if situation like COVID-19 persists or in future we have more such situations, we might need to provide individual devices to rural children . As this children belong to financially week families, they do not own personal devices neither have internet.
Thinksharp Foundation is going to extend their thoughts and welcomes views and support on tackling this issue under project StudyMall, StudyMall currently provides library and digital learning facilities. But we are working on extending this to have laptops, individual personal devices etc for uninterrupted learning, for serving rural population.
We want to extend our work to create a financially viable and user friendly option to provide equal digital learning tools for rural children.
We welcome educationists, parent, children, policymakers, fellow NGOs to contribute to pool of ideas and frame solutions to solve this issue . Together lets help rural govt schools and rural children learn uninterrupted during and post COVID-19 period.
Thanks and keep your Human side up that will keep you smiling….
While the whole world is advancing and transitioning to digital, most of the rural India is still struggling to have schools and libraries.
School Library: The Focal point
What is a Library? A Library is a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for use or borrowing by the public or the members of an institution.
In addition to providing materials, libraries also provide the services of librarians who are experts at finding and organizing information and at interpreting information needs.
Libraries often provide quiet areas for studying, and they also often offer common areas to facilitate group study and collaboration. Libraries often provide public facilities for access to their electronic resources and the Internet.
Modern Library – beyond books:
Modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources. They are extending services beyond the physical walls of a building, by providing material accessible by electronic means.
Libraries are increasingly becoming community hubs where programs are delivered and people engage in lifelong learning. As community centers, libraries are also becoming increasingly important in helping communities mobilize and organize for their rights.
Library policy is ruled by Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation – RRRLF:
RRRLF is a central autonomous organization established and fully financed by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. RRRLF is registered under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961. It is the nodal agency of the Government of India to support public library services and systems and promote public library movement in the country commensurate with the objectives as embodied in its Memorandum of Association.
The supreme policy-making body of RRRLF is called the Foundation. It consists of 22 members nominated by the Government of India from amongst eminent educationists, librarians, administrators and senior officials. The Minister of the Department of Culture, Government of India or his nominee is the Chairman of RRRLF. Professor Brij Kishore Sharma is the present Chairman of RRRLF and Director General is the executive head and ex-officio Member-Secretary of the Foundation.
The Foundation works in close association and active cooperation with different State Govts. and Union Territory Administrations through a machinery called State Library Planning Committee (SLPC/SLC) set up in each State at the instance of the Foundation. To participate in Foundation’s programs, a State Government/U.T. is required to contribute a certain amount fixed by the Foundation.
Since 2005-06 the Foundation has also taken up the initiative to develop the District Youth Resource Centre (DYRC) in collaboration with Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathana, an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs.
School Library Policy says:
One period a week to be devoted to library reading.
During this time, children sit and read silently in the library. They return the books borrowed the previous week and borrow new ones.
If there is no library room, the teacher can bring out books appropriate to the age group and allow children to choose from the set.
It is important to let the child choose rather than having the teacher distribute the books.
Library books can be brought into the language class.
For class projects, children can be asked to look up a reference in the library.
Children can be asked to write about the book they have read that week during the language class.
Children can be asked to share a story they have read with the other children in class.
The school library should be kept open during vacations.
Current status of availability of School Libraries
People who are worried about their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter can’t imagine remotely using school or public libraries. Commercialization of education has now added a new dimension to the existing problems of school education.
School libraries in India, wherever they exist, face a multitude of problems ranging from inadequate space for keeping books and reading space in school buildings to less trained staff.
Non availability of regular funds for acquiring reading materials is a major problem faced by school libraries in government and semi-government sector.
These schools have only amalgamated funds and parent-teacher association fund from which only a limited number of approved books can be purchased.
Schools in the private sector do not have much of a problem with funds but availability to library is subject to priority given to it by Head of School.
The collections have not grown beyond the prescribed books in the syllabus with a few exceptions.
Even the books approved by state directorates of education neither are of good quality nor directly relevant.
The ad-hoc system of school libraries is running throughout the length and breadth of the country in the absence of any specific guidelines and standards for their sustained growth.
Rural schools are lagging behind the urban ones in terms of professionally trained library staff.
There are no incentives for trained staff for working in rural schools, besides the problems mentioned earlier are manifested to a greater degree.
While there is need for training of professional librarians, mechanisms have not been developed and avenues are not available for this.
Importance of School Library
In many parts of the country, community libraries are functioning in rural areas, and government libraries exist in many district headquarters.
However, commute to these common libraries by children is challenging.
Hence, in order to maximize the use of resources, it is important to plan a library in each school.
Library enables a child to attain great wisdom at almost free of cost.
Library and book reading not only improves reading habits but also a child’s imagination.
Children can learn about:
Different countries, people, traditions, languages, flora, fauna
Various scientists, freedom fighters, world wars,
Planets, the vast space, aero science etc.
And the list goes on thus strengthening the young India, capable to transform the world to a new era.
This will also increase the nation’s literacy rate by heaps and bounds.
So powerful the books are!
Despite this fact, why is it still a challenge to instill reading as a hobby?
Possible reasons children not keen in reading books
Unable to focus reading for long time
Unaware of the kind of books to read
Unable to find out own interests to choose a book
Lack of guidance from parents and teacher
Tips to encourage children visiting libraries and reading books
Initially, children need guidance on book reading. Children learn what they watch most of the time!!
Book reading should either be a hobby of parents or best friends so that a child can watch and learn.
In this busy life, it is rare to notice book reading as a hobby of parents. And that too in rural India, it is almost impossible!
Teachers and librarians play a major role in encouraging book reading.
While the Policy has already mentioned most of the tips, below are few more:
Allow children to read a book and conduct activities like:
These will not only improve child’s reading ability but also their personality and confidence.
Let children participate in various inter-school competitions
While conducting awareness programs on “book reading”, it will be a good idea to involve children.
Children’s speech has more impact as they stand true examples!!
Besides academics, library should provide access to:
Newspapers – English and local language
Moral story books
Personality development books like You Can Win!
English grammar books like Wren & Martin
Dictionaries – English to local language translation
Aptitude and mathematics books for Competitive examinations like Ramanuja Test and CV Raman Tests (for Secondary schools)
State, India and World maps
Depending on the students’ interest, books on gardening, farming etc can also be added so that students will be aware of backyard farming.
Various NGOs work closely on Child Education and School Libraries. Few of them are:
The organization was founded on the belief that quality education is the undeniable right of every child and that children should not be deprived of this just because they do not have access to it or the resources to realise their dreams. — https://akshara.org.in/
Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income communities by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond. — https://www.roomtoread.org/countries/india/
Last but not the least; ThinkSharpFoundation has also extended its hand in promoting education in rural India.
ThinkSharp Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2011 with a vision
“To bridge the Rural-Urban education divide”.
Overcoming the space issues, ThinkSharp foundation has come up a project of “StudyMall” with a new idea of “Modular Hanging Library” .
On occasion of International Yoga day observed on Friday 21 June 2019, our partner schools enthusiastically took part in Yoga Day. All of our 30 centres in rural areas, participated by conducting Yoga Session with our young students from 1st std to 10th std with their teachers.
StudyMall promotes learning by providing various educational infrastructure in rural schools. Currently we focus on providing library and digital aids e.g. projector embedded with school syllabus and an option to link it to internet.With availability of such improved tools in rural schools, it fosters positive environment to conduct additional activities such as YOGA Day.
We are very thankful to have teachers who support and carry out such activities while fully using the provided infrastructure.
YOGA is our ancient practise which is accepted by people from all over the world as a physical, mental and spiritual discipline that brings good health and relaxation.
If you want to help us in creating such positive stories and impact for our future generations and help these little “Yogi’s” to become strong force behind building our nation, Join us now.