MUMBAI: The extended lockdown and resultant school closures have been hard on children the world over. It has been doubly tough for the children from disadvantaged families who lack access to digital learning thus depriving them of access to basic education. School closures have compelled these children to remain confined within their homes with no access to online classes or any means to remain academically, creatively or socially engaged.
Project Nanhi Kali, one of India’s largest programs that enables underprivileged girls to complete 10 years of schooling, is currently supporting over 170,000 girls from underserved communities across 8 states in India. The Project has devised innovative solutions to ensure that each one of their girls remains safe, connected, and continues to learn, despite the challenges imposed by the lockdown.
Sheetal Mehta, Senior Vice President – CSR, Mahindra Group, says “This is a crucial time for us at Project Nanhi Kali, as the on-going COVID-19 crisis threatens to further widen gender disparities in access to education. In these turbulent times, we have adopted new and innovative ways of staying connected with the girls and ensuring that their process of learning continues, even with the minimal resources available to them at home. We are determined to double our efforts to support the education of vulnerable girls in India and ensure that they do not fall further behind due to the pandemic. Our planned way forward is to invest in the digital empowerment of girls, which will be our new ‘normal’.”
The Nanhi Kali team is in regular contact with every girl and her family to ensure their well-being. To keep the girls cognitively stimulated, the Project has organized summer camps, remotely engaging the girls in extra-curricular activities like origami, art, craft, reading, and storytelling. Further, national-level competitions in essay writing, painting, poster-making, origami, poetry, and story writing are being conducted, in which girls from across project locations have been participating enthusiastically from their homes.
Recently, Project Nanhi Kali implemented ‘Mission Rainbow’, a campaign where girls from multiple locations united virtually to spread a message of hope and positivity by painting colorful rainbows and sharing photographs of their artwork. This activity not only sparked the girls’ artistic interests but also helped imbibe a spirit of resilience and positivity amidst the stress and uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. The campaign was promoted on Nanhi Kali’s social media pages and saw several individuals showing their solidarity to the cause by posting their own rainbow paintings. Like a rainbow after a stormy night, the Nanhi Kalis gave everyone a reason to smile during these trying times.
In addition to creative pursuits, the Nanhi Kali team has also been encouraging the girls to study from home. The tutors share mathematical problems, puzzles and general knowledge tests for the girls to solve, following which they monitor their progress through telephone calls. Having established a close bond with their Nanhi Kali tutors over a period of time, the girls feel comfortable to uninhibitedly express themselves to the tutors, clarify doubts and seek guidance though these daily conversations. For those girls who have access to the internet/smartphones, the team frequently shares worksheets and links to digital learning platforms launched by the Government.
In many project locations, the Nanhi Kali teams have been voluntarily stitching and distributing masks to the girls, their families and community members. Through phone calls and virtual meetings, they are also creating awareness in communities on hygiene practices and COVID-19 prevention measures, and helping families access essential commodities for their homes. Moreover, Project Nanhi Kali is conducting comprehensive online training and capacity building sessions for their tutors and program implementation team, to ensure that they are equipped to begin on-ground operations as soon as schools re-open.
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