The Covid-19 pandemic has divided educational scenarios into two eras, namely pre-Covid generally dealing with a face-to-face model and post-Covid era which is more about digital education. But this sudden digital shift of education had its own bottlenecks and constraints.
While according to a UNESCO COVID tracking website, around 1.72 billion learners have been affected due to the closure of educational institutions, 321 million Indian children have been hampered in continuing education . Of course, these children were from poor and disadvantaged communities, who were already facing the wrath of lack of income, vulnerability to Covid and other demands. In addition to work, at least 27% of students (NCERT survey) do not have access to smartphones or laptops to take online courses.
The situation was no different in the slums of Delhi, where the AROH Foundation has been implementing its projects like Padho aur Badho and the remedial education project ‘RISE’ (Remedial Innovation in School Education) for more than a decade. now, having covered over 50,000 needy children till date. .
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In slums like Sangam Vihar, Mundka, Ghevra or Rani Kheda, where the struggle is for food and survival, education takes a back seat, especially for girls. Due to family lethargy towards education, government initiatives have had no effect here. Despite discussions about the progress Delhi’s education system has made in terms of infrastructure and methodologies, the academic progress of slum children has been an uphill battle. And so, the need for the RISE project, which integrates the educational, physical and emotional well-being of children by improving their educational, interim nutritional and extracurricular activity needs was the need of the hour.
The project is run in a hub and spoke model, in which each group of 10 centers is managed under a nodal center. In each class, 50 students (25 girls and 25 boys) are enrolled under an educator. It incorporates provisions for community engagement through door-to-door outreach, group discussions and rallies, among other activities. The AROH educators maintain a direct link with the school authorities to receive information from the children on the aforementioned aspects.
With the integration of Blended Learning Modules (BLM) pedagogy into RISE, AROH is addressing face-to-face and digital modes of education long before the onset of the pandemic. BLM is a uniquely designed audio-video program that is easy for students to grasp and stays in their memory longer. RISE, a unique child-centered model, focuses on each child’s needs and requirements for academic improvement, health care, and psychological and mental development through a bouquet of interventions. RISE started in 2016 in the Sangam Vihar and Mundka slums of Delhi. By far, RISE has welcomed more than 5,000 children.
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The educators were well trained during their service and the review and assessment SOPS were in place a year before COVID happened. Thanks to these BLMs, RISE could help more than 2,000 children to continue their education in the Covid and the two years of confinement that followed. Children whose families had returned to their home villages were also able to stay connected and were supported during the lockdown.
“As victims of job loss and the health crisis, the parents of these children had no way to support online lessons. RISE with its free online mode of teaching-learning methods ruled out investing an extra penny in this preparation,” said a project coordinator at the AROH Foundation.
RISE staff have also doubled as community social workers during COVID shutdowns, facilitating relief work.
While Azim Premji University pointed out that around 82% of children had lost the basic ability of learning from the previous year during the COVID lockdown, we asked RISE children about this.
“No, nothing is forgotten, Divya Didi (her educator) made us revise all the concepts several times through video calls, online homework and also the exams continued during the lockdown,” Chintu, a 5th grade student from one of the government run schools in Delhi’s Mundka area, said.
Calling RISE a futuristic project, Neelam Gupta, Founding Chairman and CEO of AROH Foundation, said, “Especially after the pandemic, RISE is proud to say that learning has never stopped even for a day, because the NGO was far-sighted enough to understand the digital shift in education long before. A key aspect of managing Covid-19 was to ensure that learning remains virtually an ongoing process. It was the perfect time to embrace technology and its latest offerings to make the delivery of education to students more efficient and productive through online learning and assessments.”
Moreover, RISE does not limit itself to the essential areas of education and learning, it also doubles down on its services to neutralize various social problems in the target communities. Educators also receive regular in-service training and capacity building. Parallel training in livelihoods like jewelry making, making Rakhi and handicrafts from waste materials is provided to ensure their sustenance and dignity.
Regular counseling is provided to parents to improve retention and learning outcomes. Mothers receive personalized and community-based services to deal with various women’s issues. Groups of women are formed, trained and placed back in the communities as “ambassadors of change”. It is a holistic approach to changing the educational scenario in the most needy communities.
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