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10 Ways To Minimise The Loss Of Learning During Covid-19

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

By Meenal Sarda, Associate Director of Room to Read’s Literacy Program; Sourav Banerjee, Country Director, Room to Read India

COVID-19 has changed our lives in innumerable ways. School closures have posed several questions on the continuity of learning for children. Even where school openings are being considered, the focus is on secondary and tertiary education. The early primary grades, where children are in their foundational years, will probably be the last to come back to school. The children bearing the highest brunt of the pandemic are the ones who need access to high-quality education the most.

As an organization committed to serving low-income communities, Room to Read is striving to compensate for the learning loss through a combination of online and offline initiatives. Here are the top ten strategies we are working on:

1. Create Awareness On The Availability Of Online Content

The government has set up an online portal, DIKSHA, to provide high-quality content on education and various organizations have contributed content to this platform. Through our network of field offices and staff, we have been raising awareness in communities and teachers on the content that is available online and ways of using it with children.

2. Disseminate Instructional Content Through TV, Radio And Phone (Not Smart!)

There is a recognition that a vast majority of households do not have access to the internet or devices like smartphones. Hence, media such as community radio, local cable TV network and Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) can be utilized to deliver learning content to parents and children.

3. Provide Books And Worksheets To Children Through The Door To Door Distribution

We pivoted to develop worksheets that are delivered to children at their home, with social distancing norms being followed. These worksheets help children stay connected with concepts they already know and practise reading skills through self-learning and involving minimal parental intervention.

Representational image.

4. Support Parents To Help Educate Their Children

Parents’ contribution to the education of their children is more significant than ever right now. Many of them find themselves thrust in the forefront with little understanding or preparation of ways to engage children. Parents and caregivers need to be supported on ways to engage children at home, which can be done by sending them messages, sharing stories and literacy-related games that they can involve children in.

5. Continue Training Teachers So They Can Work With Students

Teachers continue to be important stakeholders in the process of education. Teacher training can be sustained through blended methods which can include online discussions, utilizing existing Whatsapp platforms and sharing videos with teachers on instructional content. These will help in ongoing capacity building, so teachers can support children now, and also when they come back to school, through differential teaching methods.

6. Develop Remedial Packages As Children Return To School

Eventually, when children do start to attend school, they would require support to catch up with the learning requirements of their grade. Preempting that scenario, it is important to develop a remedial package for children which would help them attain the learning levels of their grade and enable their progress to the next one.

7. Address The Social And Emotional Needs Of Children

COVID, and its repercussions, have been stressful and traumatic for many children and communities. In addition to the focus on literacy and reading, we need to address the social and emotional well-being of children. This initiative will be relevant post COVID and is being done through varied resources such as worksheets, stories where children get space to talk about emotions and expressing gratitude. It is critical to sensitize parents and teachers on the significance of emotional well-being and ways to take it forward with children.

8. Online Library Of Books And Read-aloud

Literacy Cloud is the online library of Room to Read’s children’s books, as well as read-aloud videos and professional development resources for educators. This resource has become even more relevant now and we are prioritizing uploading content in local languages so it can benefit more people. We are also linking this up with existing government platforms and apps.

Representational image.

9. Reading Campaign

Room to Read conducted its annual reading campaign, starting from Independence Day (August 15th) and culminating on International Literacy Day (September 8th) to retain the focus on literacy and reading. We received a great response from all the participants with pledges for dedicated reading time.

10. Partnerships With The Government

While government partnerships have always been a priority for Room to Read, we are leveraging our existing relationships to work with all levels of educators, including the academic resource coordinators and teachers to reach children. During this crisis, we are working harder than ever to ensure that the most vulnerable children are not left behind.

We are all aware of the digital divide present in many low-income communities, and often it is the government schools which cater to the most marginalized communities. These strategies have been developed keeping in mind the children we target and their access (or lack of) to digital resources. The pandemic has pushed the underserved even further to the periphery and it is critical to focus on the children who stand to gain from these educational interventions the most.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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