It was the third week of March and the state governments across the country began shutting down schools and colleges temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the novel corona virus. Even after a month-long closure, there was no certainty when they would reopen. This was a crucial time for the education sector—board examinations, nursery school admissions, entrance tests of various universities and competitive examinations, among others; all are held during this period. As the days passed by and with no immediate solution to stop the outbreak of Covid-19, school closures impacted on the continuity of learning of young school going learners in India.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly been both a disruptor and a medium for change. This is especially the case when it comes to education. It not only created an unprecedented challenge for educational systems globally, it also brought much needed attention to the importance of connectivity and the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning in the context of schooling as per convenience and availability of time.
However, the current crisis brought to surface many dimensions of the digital divide that we need to address, including equity gaps, and issues around children’s safety online.
With many students and teachers forced indoors due to the corona virus-induced lockdowns, many NGOs working in the field of education adapted to using digital means to impart education. All the educators were in a pickle. Transitioning to online in such a short period of time was really tricky… one day we were in school, and the next day, the whole world was kind of flipped upside down.
Studies have shown that children stuck indoors, unable to go to school and without the company of their peers which is so vital at their age, can have detrimental effects on their psyche.
Aarohan NGO too had its share of hard-earned lessons on pandemic resilience, and how it chalked out a strategy to transform the lives of its teachers and even children with no access to the Internet and Smartphone’s to bridge this digital divide gap.
And as the pandemic swelled in Delhi and NCR region and the shutdown of schools continued, proving especially harsh for children from impoverished or worse with no families, the biggest challenge was to bring the children out of their shell who were holed up at home during pandemic.
It was at this hour that the organization implemented the concept of ‘Happiness Therapy’ which encompasses the use of experiential techniques such as dance, songs, yoga, meditation and laughter to enable holistic and speedy recovery from the effects of pandemic on the children's psyche. It envisaged physical cognitive, emotional and social integration of children with their peers and colleagues.
Many individuals came forward to accelerate this transformation by donating smartphones, tablets, and other resources to students coming from underprivileged backgrounds or those living in slums. Many educators also served as models to impart better education and improve the lives of those who are economically disadvantaged.
The organization pioneered with its vision to strive to make education more accessible and inclusive which it had nurtured for the last fifteen years; all this with the well-rounded support from their partners and interested stakeholders to develop a more holistic school connectivity plans.
Aarohan’s Computer Library made all the digital tools accessible to children at one place so that they could come and take their homework assigned by their respective schools.
The organization burned the midnight oil in 2020 to brighten the future of the underprivileged children amidst a pandemic through the innovative approach to E-Teaching and Learning.
The education sector is facing challenges due to the pandemic and this is where the importance of blended learning comes to the forefront.
Aarohan NGO through the help of experts has initiated the scaling up of an educational movement which can be seen from the strong and immediate actions to offset as many of the negative social fallouts of COVID-19 to cater to the learning deficit which has come in the form of physical activity in most schools coming to a standstill. Indeed it’s a terrible blow to millions of children and schoolteachers, not to mention parents. However, the question is not which type of learning is better – physical or online. The question is how might we combine, or blend both to reach a much higher level of experiential learning.
This reminds us of Swami Vivekanand’s famous quote:
“If the mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. If the poor cannot come to education, education must reach them at the plough, in the factory, everywhere.”
These are the strategies that the nation as a whole has been and will be implementing both during and post COVID-19. We, at Aarohan, are also experimenting with smart phones and laptops to deliver digital content to the most marginalized group of children. To reach and cover the same on a wide scale, we need more funding for such innovations.
Having said that, our partners have shown great consideration and empathy towards Aarohan’s cause. Aarohan’s board members have been steadfast supporters through thick and thin during this entire pandemic. People like Anjali Hegde and Jaishree have donated personally to charity in a big way.
Amar Ujala board members have come forward to fund an exciting COVID-19 related education project with Aarohan by lending their expertise in the field of technology. There’s no better time than now to bet on the future.
That’s a lesson that has enormous significance for education systems, rich and poor, across the globe!