Supporting education in rural areas of India during COVID-19 and beyond
COVID-19 has impacted human life across the world, especially education that can leave a long-lasting impact on future generation. In India, most private schools in cities are offering online classes, but government schools, over 90% of which are in rural India are likely to remain closed most of this academic year due to the pandemic crisis. These government schools in rural areas do not have required digital infrastructure and facilitation mechanism to conduct online classes. This is impacting millions of poor children in rural areas, they are at a risk of missing this school year. This means a lot for these who come from very poor families like farmers, daily wage workers, etc., who are not only missing one meal they used to get from the school, but also run the risk of missing school forever in their life, as they might be forced to drop out of school with livelihoods taking priority over basic education. They are in dire need of immediate help to keep their schooling alive through some digital medium during COVID.
We are starting ವಿದ್ಯಾ ದಾನ initiative to support Akshara Foundation in developing digital content for online classes for children in rural areas. Akshara Foundation is a public charitable trust dedicated to ensuring quality pre-school and primary education for every child. They have successfully collaborated with government, corporate and voluntary organizations and implemented multiple learning initiatives for thousands of government schools in rural areas over the last 20 years. They have been working on strengthening reading and math skills in elementary school children through programs like Oduve Nanu, Swalpa English, Ganita Kalika Andolana, etc., which significantly improved academic results in those rural schools. Visit https://akshara.org.in/ for more details.
Akshara Foundation has been in discussions with Governments of Karnataka and Odisha on a concept called 50:50 learning which facilitates opening of schools through social distanced learning while introducing digital learning to poor and marginalized children in rural areas. Salient features of the concept are as follows:
Class sizes in government schools are typically of over 30 children cramped in small un-ventilated rooms, where it would be difficult to follow social distancing norms. To overcome this problem, a class will be broken up into two groups, one group in the classroom with appropriate distancing norms, the other group will be at home or outside the class in a safe setting.
Teacher will run parallel lesson plan, one in the class room and the other where the student is instructed to access the digital content through a smart device provided to the child and complete the lesson plan and homework exercises on that day.
School will issue a smart device with all features disabled except scanning the text book that will take them to Diksha (Digital platform) where the lesson related digital contents can be accessed.
Children in government schools depend on the government’s mid-day meal scheme to receive their nutrition. Children from home come to school for mid-day meal and will turn in the smart device that will be sanitized, charged and given to students in the classroom for use the next day.
Next day, the group of children will switch from home to school and vice versa.
Following are the requirement to implement the 50:50 plan:
Develop curriculum based digital content suitable for unsupervised learning by children.
o Due to Akshara’s foresight and digital initiatives, significant amount of digital content has been developed and available already. Akshara’s numeracy app “The Building Blocks” has over 250 math concept games for 1st to 5th. grade.
Akshara now proposes to create child self learning videos for mathematics based on their “Ganitha Kalika Andolana” (GKA) pedagogy.
Develop digital training material for teachers.
Facilitate local micro entrepreneurs to avail loans to procure devices, thereby creating livelihoods at the same time. Once the “proof-of-concept” pilot is proven to be successful, Akshara will approach government for operating budget for logistics and maintenance of the devices.
Work with State, District and Gram Panchayat level officials to implement the program.
50:50 Program Road-map
GKA has been operational in over 95,000 government rural schools across Karnataka, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Post Covid, Akshara has to create enhanced quality videos for deployment through “Diksha”, TV, YouTube and whatsapp and for the 50:50 pilot project. Akshara is working on the following plan:
We are supporting Akshara Foundation to develop digital content for online classes for children in rural areas through our ವಿದ್ಯಾ ದಾನinitiative. We are requesting individual donors and organizations to donate to Hoysala Charitable Trust.
Where does our money go?
It needs highly skilled professionals and sophisticated technology to create quality education content and shooting & editing videos. For government schools in Karnataka, Akshara will create content in Kannada, then dub the videos in Hindi and English ( on priority) and then in six other regional languages for rolling out the program in other states across India. Details of the content creation and video shooting components are provided in the subsequent sections below for your reference.
We are looking for donors to support as much of the digital content creation as possible through our initiative, e.g. sponsoring the cost of producing 17 education concepts in Kannada which costs $15,000. Cost breakdown is also provided in the content section below.
Akshara Foundation is working on four sets of educational content videos that will ensure learning does not stop, despite the pandemic.
· Set 1. For Teachers (A total of 17 concept videos & 2 Math Pedagogy videos)
· Set 2. For Children (A Total of 17 concept videos)
· Set 3. Do-it-Yourself (DiY) Teaching & Learning Materials (A total of 17 TLMs)
· Set 4. Real-life Scenarios for each concept. (A Total of 17 concept videos)
The set 3 and 4 videos can be used either by teachers or by children
Each set of videos will be created in Kannada and then dubbed to English and Hindi (dubbing in English and Hindi will help pitch the same set of videos to other states). All these sets of videos will be for children studying in grades 1 to 5 (that is, lower primary grades which are in dire need of foundational numeracy skills).
Content Cost Breakdown
Amount needed for digital content development for 50:50 program has been broken down all the way to a unit cost of 1 concept, per language. Listed below is the cost of producing any 1 set of videos (Teacher / child / DiY / Real-life scenarios) below.
Each of the four sets of videos will cost approximately the same amount (i.e.₹ 33,75,000) as the # of concepts, time taken to shoot, and duration of each video are almost the same.
Here is the flow diagram of the entire project that Akshara Foundation is currently working on.
GUEST SPEAKER - MR. ASHOK KAMATH, CHAIRMAN AKSHARA FOUNDATION
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