* above picture : Vignesh communicating with the children online
While there had been a build up of information on the situation on Corona virus which gave us in Thamarai time to run a number of health awareness programs on the subject, the lock down came very fast. In the villages we work in, people are staying home and there is sufficient food, Children are finding it hard though, as homes are small, not equipped with the modern conveniences such as computers that children have in urban areas and the lockdown conditions allow people to leave home for food and medicines only until 1pm. The coloured pencils, activity sheets, books and games that we gave the children before we closed are being well used. The Thamarai team is endeavouring to find novel ways to continue our children’s learning. On March 30th, we launched a children’s writing and drawing competition “my ideal world” for several age categories that will award a prize to everyone.
Novel Ways to Continue our Children’s Learning
We were concerned about our children, how they were coping and how we could support the continuation of their education so on April 6th we created daily learning pods connecting 3 children, each in their home, with 1 youth facilitator over the telephone. Our youth facilitators are all university graduates and many were children in Thamarai when we started in 2006. The daily learning pods give the children and facilitators a means to connect together to nourish their hearts and minds in a structured call designed to give children time to express their feelings, motivate one another, learn something new each day and plan for home learning activities. Having completed the first week our facilitators are reporting that the children are eagerly learning, very engaged and attentive. It is stretching our team in new challenges as they are reliant only on voice to communicate ideas without being able to see each other or reference material, so they plan well and use a variety of curriculum material with songs, riddles, interesting facts, stories and activity challenges to create an enabling environment for learning through the phone. 60 children are engaged daily on these calls and their feedback is very positive, Sunil told us that “ I learnt about my interests in activities. Learning like this with friends is very fun and interesting .I learn facts from my friends when I and they start sharing”. In Thamarai the children lead the way so we look forward to the journey that will unfold together of learning together.
Going Forward Despite the Material Limitations
We have become very aware of the profound questions that this time throws up about equity and fairness as we see how limited local technology is with all homes without computers and many without android phones. We are also finding that many families have not a credit balance in their phones so all calls are barred and we are unable, at the moment, to reach those children. Another thing that is arising is the number of daily labourers who are unregistered and thus outside the system unable to receive government relief aid. Going forward we, in Thamarai, are committed to increasing our attention on digital literacy and rights based education so that people know their entitlements and have connectivity so they can self educate and register for schemes.
For now it is a joy to serve our children in our daily learning calls that will go on until we are back to normal and being able to gather in person for after school and weekend activities.