In December 2021, Oxfam India conducted an intensive exercise of tracking out of school children. We found that 795 children, (365 girls and 430 boys), were out of school in 120 villages of UP. With help from volunteers, we started 51 Mohalla Classes covering seven districts. In these classes, 321 children (155 girls and 166 boys) are now continuing with education.
With the announcement of the countrywide lockdown in March 2020, schools have mostly been closed. Private schools started organising online classes for children, but those from marginalised communities enrolled in government schools were left behind.
Volunteers and Oxfam India’s community mobilisers will take classes for two hours everyday. Due to prolonged school closures since 2020, there was a wide learning gap and loss of interest in education among children. To help with that, the Mohalla Classes are made interactive with non-scholastic activities at first to capture the attention of children and then they are eventually engaged with scholastic work.
When the pandemic shuttered schools across the country, many children’s education came to an abrupt halt due to the lack of access to online education. Oxfam India-HDFC stepped in with the installation of Smart Classes in three schools in Bihar's Nalanda District. Each Smart Class had six computers powered by solar energy. Teachers from local computer coaching centers were hired and training began in January 2022..
The Holistic Rural Development Project, an Oxfam India-HDFC project, undertakes initiatives such as conducting student awareness sessions, renovating schools, installing libraries, etc to strengthen the education system in India. During these sessions, we learned that access to education was hampered by the lack of digital literacy.
Only 15% of rural children in India, and 4% from SC/ST communities, had access to online classes. Setting up the Smart Classes helped students to continue with their education online. A total of 1649 (868 girls and 781 boys) students will benefit from this initiative
Oxfam India tried some innovative methods to ensure classes where not disrupted and children continued learning despite school closure. We engaged with School Management Committees and parents to identify volunteers in different villages. With help from school teachers, volunteers were trained to conduct offline classes while following COVID-19 related safety measures.
The volunteers follow a set routine. They teach at the same time every day and conduct recreational activities such as toy making and storytelling sessions, and play games to keep the children engaged.
"This is interesting and very useful, otherwise we would have fallen behind on our studies. Plus this also helps us to meet with our classmates," says Shivani Patel of class 7. Till date we have provided offline classes to over 1100 children across four districts in Uttar Pradesh.
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