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Spurring hope as we reshape learning in India post-pandemic

POSTED January 24, 2022

Spurring hope as we reshape learning in India post-pandemic

Our country director takes us on her team’s journey of discovery to breaking barriers to education in the world’s new normal

By Nancy Anabel, country director, India

Girls working on laptop

In the journey of evolving our Centre of Excellence on gender and social inclusion, Children Believe’s India team is moving forward in its agenda, digging deep for lasting solutions to COVID-19’s challenges. Our focus in breaking barriers to education through partnerships has shaped our trajectory. 

What did education in 2021 look like for the most marginalized in India?

A prolonged school closure kept children out of schools completely for the pandemic, compounding learning challenges — such as child marriage, child labour and poverty — that existed before the pandemic.

A World Bank study estimates large-scale school closures and the economic recession caused by COVID-19 are likely to increase the loss of learning by 63 percent, with an estimated additional 72-million primary school-age children falling into this category. The study affirms almost 1.2-billion schoolchildren are affected by school closures.

What’s more, many education sector experts say the pandemic has reversed gains to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, a global strategy to create a better world for everyone. Many fear we may not regain lost time to meet these goals by the 2030 target.

But, the world knows this is no time to give up.

To address this unprecedented challenge, governments and key stakeholders are shifting their priorities to ensure remote education programs keep children learning.

That’s harder than it seems.

UNICEF research estimates 31 percent of schoolchildren globally (or 463 million) cannot access broadcast- and Internet-based remote learning, due to the digital divide. More specifically, the three out of four students globally who can’t reach remote learning come from rural areas, and/or belong to poor households.

Evidence-based research confirms education innovation is essential

With this in mind, Children Believe released a research study addressing the impact of COVID-19 school closures on learning among children from marginalized communities in two southern states of India. Our goal was to drive change using evidence-based research.

Our results confirmed children, particularly the poor and marginalized, are most affected by the pandemic. Here’s what we learned about children from these communities:

  • 85 percent lacked access to digital technology
  • 82 percent lacked a conducive home environment for studying
  • 77 percent of girls supported their parents in household chores, impeding learning
  • 50 percent of girls faced protection issues and abuse

These findings led Children Believe’s India team to dig deeper. It led to the background information for two policy briefs — one on the need for a learning-loss assessment and the second on promoting a literate environment at home and in communities.

We were compelled to share these learnings with a larger stakeholders group through a webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on learning among children. Nearly 200 delegates from 12 countries, representing 86 organizations participated and many echoed the need to recover and reshape learning from the lens of gender and inclusion.

So, we didn’t stop there. We shared the findings of our study through the United Nations ECOSOC Partnership Forum’s online consultation for a larger discussion. Research was gathered from key stakeholders globally for potential use in their consultation report about building back better after the pandemic. Children Believe was one of the 240+ submissions used for this comprehensive report.

Girls is smiling and holding up her photos

How are creative learning centres helping marginalized children learn today?

Back in our programs, we’re addressing challenges among children who have been deprived of education during the pandemic.

With support from our implementing partners, we’ve equipped 130 creative learning centres (CLC) with digital resources such as laptops, tablets, speakers and an Internet connection. The after-school learning spaces were popular before the pandemic, and they have become vital now.

Post-pandemic, our programs linked teachers with CLC volunteers to help children continue to follow their learning plan. The approach has been engaging parents and the community actively in the learning process. And, our study confirms 59 percent (3,285 children) of children in our programs accessed CLCs for remote learning.

Sailaja, a Grade 7 student, is thankful she can go to a CLC to continue learning. When the state government chose to broadcast school lessons through television, Sailaja was crushed she’d have to miss out, since her family couldn’t afford a TV. Luckily she could attend regular online classes at her learning centre.

“[I had] my first experience touching a laptop; now I’ve learned to use it,” Sailaja says. “I am proud to say I benefited and improved my studies, especially in math and science, because of the CLC.”

Kiroshini, another CLC student, agrees. “It served as a second school for me during the pandemic,” she shares, noting she learned more than basic academics. “I participated in an online drawing competition and won second prize…. We wrote and sang COVID-awareness songs, (which) aired on local TV. I am thankful to CLCs for providing such a lovely platform to nurture my talent.”

How we’re keeping kids learning by diversifying our approach to education

When schools do reopen, we’re ready. We’re working on new initiatives to keep children and teachers on track with their learning goals…

  • Our implementing partners ran awareness campaigns for parents, reminding them why it was important for their children to continue education after the lockdowns. This made it possible for 30 children to re-enrol in school.
  • We’ve led teacher training to promote navigated learning, which helps tailor the approach each student needs to perform at their best.
  • We’re progressing on a Generation Global (GG) pilot program to build 21st-century skills among rural children and recognize them as global citizens. This project from the Tony Blair Institution for Global Change will help children from marginalized communities connect with their global peers to nurture and hone their skills.

We believe education is the only tool that can empower children to dream fearlessly, unleash their hidden potential and address key issues that could hold them back. Thanks for supporting us in this mission.

Learn more about how you can support education through Children Believe.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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