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How Odisha Government Is Taking The School To Children's Home, Ensuring Learning During COVID-19 Pandemic

How Odisha Government Is Taking The School To Children's Home, Ensuring Learning During COVID-19 Pandemic

Highlights

  1. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across India are shut
  2. The Odisha government provides education to 6.5 lakh children
  3. Its taking the school to home for 3 lakh children from SC/ST communities
New Delhi: 

“We did not have a mobile at home so I could not study. Now, that the mentor teacher comes here I use her phone to watch the videos. I can study and I ask her what I don't understand”, said Raman Palta Singh, a student from a tribal community in Odisha. The Coronavirus pandemic induced lockdown led to a closure of schools and colleges and in turn created a learning crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the vast digital divide in the country - only one in four children have access to digital devices and the internet. The children of scheduled tribes (ST) and scheduled caste (SC) communities, many of who were first generation school goers, have been among the worst affected by this learning crisis. But, in Odisha, the government with support from UNICEF is taking the school to the children's homes, ensuring education continues even in the middle of a pandemic.

The Odisha government provides education to 6.5 lakh children who are housed in 6,700 hostels with around 3,500 schools. With the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, the schools were shut but within three to four days, the Odisha government introduced the alternative learning and mentorship programme covering three lakh children from SC and ST communities.

Talking to NDTV about the initiative, Ranjana Chopra, Principal Secretary, Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes Development Department, Government Of Odisha, said,

We decided to have our teachers go as mentors to the villages. What was more important was to keep the child connected to the process of learning.

The success of the programme was dependent on the commitment of teachers and in Odisha, mentors ensured that they leave no stone unturned for the bright future of children. Explaining the challenges, Mamata Mohanty, Assistant Teacher, said,

When the programme started, parents did not want to send their children out of the fear of COVID. We took them into confidence and explained to them that there was nothing to worry about.

Sraboni Champati, another student from a tribal community shared her experience of alternative learning with NDTV and said,

At least I don't feel like the school has shut. I feel like I am going to school every day. And if the school reopens tomorrow I will go to the school.

Before signing off, Ms Chopra, talked about the support the Odisha government received from UNICEF in ensuring the education of children. Ms Chopra said,

UNICEF has supported this programme in two ways which were required and very timely. They did a third-party assessment for us and it was a rapid assessment. And then they were to help us with the capacity building modules for our mentor teachers.

According to Tannistha Datta, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF, the measures put in place to control the spread of the Novel Coronavirus including lockdown, closure of services, and restriction of movement are the same things that are triggering the child protection crisis. Closure of schools has put a break on all forms of learning in India but programmes like alternative learning and mentorship is reigniting the hope.

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About The Partner

UNICEF India is committed in its continued support to the Government in this extraordinary journey of development to reach every child everywhere in India. Our goal is to enable every child born in India to have the best start in life, to thrive and to develop to her or his full potential. To achieve this we use our technical expertise together with partners to tackle the root of several, deeply entrenched structural challenges.  

 

UNICEF works to promote and protect the rights of children across India. We have spent 70 years in India working to improve the lives of children and their families. With some 450 staff members working in 17 states that together cover 90 per cent of India’s child population - largest field presence among UN agencies – we are well positioned to reach the country’s most vulnerable children.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has launched Reimagine – an urgent appeal to governments, the public, donors and the private sector to support UNICEF’s efforts to respond, recover and reimagine a world severely impacted by COVID-19. UNICEF India relies on the support and donations from businesses and individuals to sustain and expand health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child protection programmes for all girls and boys in India