Karnataka: Varthana and Rotary India Literacy Mission have launched the “Unlock School” program, an initiative to help children have access to quality education during and after the pandemic, across government schools in Tumkur and Doddaballapura. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on education, resulting in school closures and a widespread loss of learning for students. The “Unlock School” program serves to bridge this learning gap by providing children with remedial educational materials that will help them progressively go back to grade level.
A total of 100 schools participated in the launch event which was conducted virtually on 8 and 9 December 2021. Close to 15,000 children will be impacted through this program.
The launch event and training also attempted to shed light on issues such as low attendance, low parent engagement, high student-to-teacher ratios, low enrollment, and the difficulties schools are facing in providing education in the face of the pandemic. These disruptions pose a great risk to millions of school-going children, particularly those from low-income families. During the sessions, Ambika T A (teacher) shared that in her school, teachers have encountered issues like loss of writing, comprehension, and listening skills among students. “Parent-teacher meetings play a major role along with the School Development and Monitoring Committee,” Ambika observed. She went on to claim that there are numerous challenges for teachers to adapt to online teaching and that parents are not always supportive.
“Children started working as ‘coolies’ as they are below the poverty line. Survival was a major concern in the family. Parents couldn’t afford mobile phones and they were not supportive,” claims Yashodamma (teacher), who also joined the online session. She mentioned that many students in Grades 1 to 3 are not interested in coming to school. As evidenced by the high dropout rate, many parents prefer worksheets over sending their child to school because the child will be able to help them with the work.
“Many children have lost all of their skills, there is a learning gap,” Yashodamma continued. “Passing students without exams has encouraged parents to ignore schooling. Students are already involved in various activities, so getting the child back to school is a challenge.”
Screenshots from the training (from L-R): Rotary and Varthana teams welcoming participants, interacting and sharing insights during the event
The majority of participants reflected that remediation is the key to addressing learning loss. They felt that the Unlock books address most of the challenges discussed during the training. All participants felt that the challenges discussed during the session can be solved through remedial with a sharp focus on foundational literacy and numeracy. 86% of participants felt that Unlock books provide flexibility in usage.
Varthana’s Unlock School program aims to help students in developing fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. The program is designed in such a way that it does not require internet connectivity. It can be used by schools during school closures as well as to supplement the curriculum once classes resume.
In addition, Varthana and Rotary India Literacy Mission have collaborated to deliver workbooks to schools and distribute them to students. Both teams will continue to support schools through additional training and frequent check-ins and follow-ups. The education sector has been one of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic. Through the Unlock School program, Varthana and Rotary India want to ensure that children are able to learn through the pandemic and will be able to cope once schools reopen.
Book handover/distribution at the BRC office
Unlock Program books with multilingual instructions