Supplementary classes for rural and tribal poor children during the lockdown in Kalahandi, Odisha
463 million children, globally, were unable to access remote learning when schools shut due to COVID-19, as per
UNICEF. India’s distressing disparity in infrastructure access, from electricity to digital devices to internet connectivity, has widened the education inequality for the rural and urban poor.
Data from India is revealing. Protiva Kundu writing for Scroll notes that “…only 24% of Indian households have an internet facility…a little over 15% of rural households have access to internet services…only 8% of all households with members aged between five and 24 have both a computer and an internet connection.” The digital divide worsens for the poorest with only 2.7% having access to internet and 8.9% to internet facilities among the poorest 20% households.
Responding to the education emergency,Gram Vikas started supplementary classes for children in villages. Classes are held in spaces identified as community centres with the help of local volunteers.
The supplementary classes being held at the Anganwadi Centre in Dhuliguda village in Kaniguma Panchayat is benefitting more than 45 students from 6 villages surrounding Dhuliguda.
Santosh Naik, a resident of Dhuliguda, doing his M.Tech from Gandhi Institute of Technology, Bhubaneshwar, is taking supplementary classes in his village teaching Maths, Science and English. He shares why he is helping students to continue learning during the lockdown, “For subjects such as maths, face-to-face teaching is vital in the case of many students. I teach students of Grades X, IX and VIII. These students need extra attention since they do not have anyone at home to guide them. My college is shut due to the pandemic. I needed some work experience…The classes are supported by Gram Vikas, so it makes me prouder to collaborate, and work with Gram Vikas, which has done a lot of development work in my village.”
Raju Majhi, a student of grade X from the village says, “I don’t have a smartphone and there is poor network connectivity here. So, for us, online education is not an option at all. These classes have been really helpful as Santosh sir is helping us clear our doubts. We have been able to cover more than half of science and Maths syllabus in the past two months. Now, I have some hope of doing well in my finals in February 2021.”
Binodini Majhi of grade VIII who attends classes six days a week at the centre says, “All these months we sat at home as our schools shut abruptly. I was finding English most difficult subject to study on my own, but now these classes are turning out to be extremely helpful. I only wish we had started earlier.”
Hemanta Naik’s father Abhiram Naik of Jabango village tells us how difficult it was for him to see his son sit idle during lockdown when schools shut down indefinitely. “My son is in the grade IX. He has spent the past many months playing with friends. I am more than happy to pay fees so that these supplementary classes continue in future too as schools continue to remain shut. My son is now busy with his studies.”
Most of the students in these classes are first generation learners.
Gram Vikas’ supplementary classes ensure that the gains made in education equity, through the past many years, are retained for children from rural and tribal communities in Odisha.
Photographs by Amarsing Majhi for Gram Vikas
Gram Vikas is a member of the Odisha Chapter of the Rapid Rural Community Response to COVID 19 (RCRC), a coalition of 65 civil society organisations supporting the rural poor, marginalised communities through direct action, research and policy advocacy, to respond to the devastating disruption caused by COVID-19.