The pandemic has radically changed the world of education. School closures and the shift to a blended learning model have laid bare the existing digital divide. Disadvantaged children, who lack access to basic online learning resources, now face the perils of the pandemic and deserve maximum attention.
According to the report of the Ministry of Education, more than 2.9 million children in India do not have access to digital devices. The enormous challenge must be met effectively by assuming collective responsibility, through social commitments, innovation and creativity. India has shown the world how adversaries can be turned into opportunities and taking simple steps to make online education accessible to all can lead the country to a brighter future.
A major barrier that has come to the fore in online learning is the lack of availability of smartphones, tablets, computers, and internet connectivity. Here, transforming community centers or developing educational centers like smart lessons for communities with internet access, digital screens, phones and computers can solve the problem of unavailability of resources and provide greater access to education.
Trained educators can facilitate learning through WhatsApp group video conferencing. Content related videos covering the program in a fun and interactive way can be shared between large groups with small interactive play activities. This can improve retention and can help spark student interest.
A video call can be launched twice a week to know the progress of the children. Apart from this, worksheets can be given to children who do not have access to smartphones. Children can develop a keen interest in learning through these online sessions during the pandemic. They can even prepare tiny DIY models using materials like matches or other things at their disposal, to understand the concepts explained in the videos they see.
These children can use their creativity to the best of their abilities and make their parents proud of their skills and talent simultaneously. Disadvantaged children of construction workers can be supported by setting up child care centers on construction sites with access to basic amenities like water, adequate shelter and free of charge for their general well-being.
Additionally, responsible citizens such as young people, working professionals and retirees should be encouraged to volunteer and join the cause as teaching assistants or tutors. They can add great value to society by contributing their skills, life experience and knowledge by working for underprivileged children. Importantly, there is a need to strengthen partnerships between universities, governments and social welfare organizations to ensure that no child is left behind in India’s race for progress .
A solid framework is needed to address the digital divide, lack of infrastructure, lack of teaching materials and capacity building. Effective and collaborative strategies must be developed to mobilize communities to address issues such as children dropping out of school, lack of skills training and financial barriers. Better partnerships can close existing gaps and can improve access and quality of early childhood education. Today, digitalization has accelerated growth and efforts must be made to make the most of technology by making quality education accessible to all.
The opinions of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the website.
The author, Dr. Payal Kanodia, is a director of the M3M Foundation and a director of the M3M group. A trained physician and mother of 2 young boys, Dr. Kanodia is driven by a philosophy of sincerity, dedication and entrepreneurial skills and is committed to meeting deadlines while juggling work and family life. Dr. Kanodia is a registered member of the Royal Asiatic Society (Great Britain), English Heritage (United Kingdom) and the Royal Society of St. George (England). She was awarded the prestigious Karmaveer Chakra Award (gold) and received the coveted Karmaveer Global Fellowship. instituted by #iCONGO in partnership with the United Nations