Apr 17, 2021

A Strange Year Indeed!

Learning With Tablets
Learning With Tablets

This past year has been like no other! The world as we knew it changed dramatically and threw all of us all kinds of challenges. We, at One Billion Literates Foundation, had a front row seat over the course of this past year as we saw the pandemic and the resultant tragedy unfold in front of our eyes. From relief work on the ground, ensuring that people had food on their plates, to adopting severely disadvantaged rural migrant communities, to finding creative ways to ensure the children most impacted by this, continued to get some form of education & learning – we did it all. We were, in fact, busier than ever. Our team rallied, within the severe constraints, and forged ahead because sitting still was not an option.

School Adoption Program

Our flagship School Adoption Program was completely disrupted by the pandemic, since the schools were all closed. But, as mentioned in one of our earlier reports, we leveraged our own network of Community Teachers, and designed creative ways for them to engage children in learning. We did this by having our teachers form small groups and teach children in open community spaces like panchayat office compounds or temple premises, or in some cases, even open fields or a village dirt road! We also had our teachers go door-to-door and distribute worksheets for children to learn from; and for some hundred+ children who had access to smartphones and digital devices, our community teachers ran WhatsApp based learning sessions. Apart from this, we also embarked on an experiment to teach children using video-based lessons on Tablets. We have covered about 3000 children this academic year.

Curriculum Development

Under the guidance of Professor Rajeevan, a very accomplished scholar of the English language and a widely published author of several books on English, we also used this period to develop a new curriculum that is based on the Common European Framework [CEFR].

Community Rehabilitation

 As mentioned in our last Report, we have also started to get actively involved in the lives of a fairly large community of migrant workers. These were people who have made the rural interiors of the metropolis their home and have over time chosen waste-picking as their vocation. When we first met them in April 2020, they had just two days of food left and were on the verge of starvation because of the lockdown. Since then, over the last many months, we have taken baby steps to start a Learning Centre and organise Health Camps. A proper Rehabilitation plan for this community is taking shape, and the coming year will see an increase in our involvement with them.

 Teacher Training

Due to the closure of schools, our rural para teachers had flexible timings, and we decided to use this opportunity to upgrade their skills in communication, creativity, pedagogy and the English language. We enrolled half of them in a 4 level, 3 month, intensive course with the Callan Institute of UK. Their progress has been amazing and they are so proud of their achievements, but no less than we are! It wasn’t just their language skills – it was the level of their confidence too that really impressed us!

The Year Ahead

We do hope that the year ahead will bring back normalcy to all our lives and that our under-privileged children do not have greater set-backs than they already have.

Learning In Small Groups
Learning In Small Groups
Migrant Community Learning Centre
Migrant Community Learning Centre
Teacher Training
Teacher Training
Health Camp At Migrant Community
Health Camp At Migrant Community
Jan 3, 2021

A Migrant Community

BEFORE
BEFORE

Our core program continued this quarter with various innovative methods adopted by our pare-teachers, as mentioned in our previous reports. We continued to conduct Small Group Learning classes in open areas, distribute worksheets in the neighbourhood of each of our para-teachers, and have WhatsApp worksheets for those fortunate enough to have smart phones.

 We have recently launched our Tablet Program, where we have made short educational Apps with videos, which can be loaded on to tablets and distributed to groups of rural children in the same neighborhood. We have started a pilot with about 100 rural children.  

 A Migrant Community

 The last quarter also saw us engage very actively with a migrant waste pickers’ community (WPC), with whom we had established initial contact during our Covid Relief work from April to June. During our multiple trips to this 450 strong migrant community, we soon realized that the pandemic had only exacerbated the extremely pathetic conditions they were already living in. We also became aware that there were close to 60 children in the community (aged between 3 to 12), almost all of whom had never been to school. Once our Covid Relief Program started petering down, we decided to have an informal Learning Centre for these children. The small start quickly grew into a very active – 4 times a week intervention from this month – program for these children. A curriculum in Early Childhood Education, smart T-shirts for uniforms, learning materials, a properly fenced/roofed/floored space, appointment of 4 trained teachers, story-telling sessions – and more, quickly took shape. Health camps for the kids as well as the adults were organized, hygiene kits distributed and sustained efforts to inculcate good hygiene habits are part of our rehabilitation initiative for this community.

 Our long term goal is to have a ‘bridge school’ to help these children enter the formal schooling system, which is the Right of Each Child.

AFTER
AFTER
With Uniforms & Mid-day Meals
With Uniforms & Mid-day Meals
All Attention!
All Attention!
The Health Camp
The Health Camp
Oct 7, 2020

A New 'School' Comes To Life

How does one define a school? What identity should it have? A building? A name? School uniforms? Tables & chairs? A defined space? Or, perhaps all it requires is enthusiastic children, and parents who dream of a different future for their children - different and better from their own current bleak existence.

“How old are you?” we asked a child. “I don’t know”, the girl responded, “You will have to ask my father”. Ameena looks about 8 years old, has never been to school, doesn’t know how to spell her name, and for sure doesn’t know her age. But there she was, washed and scrubbed and dressed in possibly the best clothes she had - waiting for us outside the gates of the settlement, with a wide smile which showed decayed teeth. Because that day was the day we were to start our teaching program for the children of this community.

This is a migrant waste picker community that is extremely marginalized and exists with as much dignity as its members can muster despite their pathetic conditions, buffeted by the intersection of several crippling and mind-numbing social issues. Over the last few months, we have worked closely and extensively with them, helping them initially with essential food and nutrients, then with safety equipment and other essentials, and slowly getting to know them – and their needs – better.

The last several days and this week especially have been amazing for us, as well as these children. We saw a vision take shape. A make-shift, tarp-covered bamboo structure has started to come together before our eyes, built and modified with the engagement of the community; we see a ‘school’ with excited children form slowly, but surely. It’s an amazing treat to watch their smiles and their excitement.

We have started this program with a prayer on our lips and hope in our hearts! With your continued support, we are confident we will be able to serve these children, as we have the other under-privileged ones.

 
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