Every child deserves every chance; No child should have their chances limited by poverty.
Educational inequality and inaccessibility to education have been a persistent concern. Working towards addressing them during the normal times have itself posed serious challenges. Imagine, working to bridge the gaps in the educational system during the times of COVID-19.
Since March, we have all been adapting to the online world. But, has it been easy for the kids? For their parents? A recent UNICEF report has studied the number of students being affected by school closures and not surprisingly, South Asia has the highest number of students being affected because of it. Poverty and the inaccessibility to online education due to the lack of accessibility to technology are the two important reasons that are driving them away from online education.
When I chose the Bhumi fellowship, I thought, I will be given a school and I just need to teach. Though I anticipated certain challenges, I did not anticipate “teaching online” itself to be a challenge. I was taken aback to know that some students of my class were in a “not-reachable” position even in this tech-era. How am I going to face this reality? Will I be able to do it? What’s my first step? These were some of the questions that were running in my mind and even my co-fellows wouldn’t deny the uncertainty that prevailed. But, as a team, we started taking small baby steps. From impossible to possible, we have been able to create some impacts with the push of our program managers and consistent efforts by the team. The three P’s that I have learned to keep as my core values are- Patience, Perseverance and Persistence.
I work with a low-income school and they don’t have zoom classes. So, the only possibility is sending out contents regularly in WhatsApp and making WhatsApp calls. This is where the three P’s become more important.
Patience- I used to be so impatient after sending out contents and anxious about not getting replies. But, with patience I learned, “things cannot always happen at my pace”. I started understanding the working conditions of my kid’s parents, the time they require to see the content, to be able to reply and their availability to devices only at certain times.
Perseverance- When I understood, constant communication is essential between educators and parents for effective remote learning, I prioritised this in my schedule and engaged in a consistent dialogue with them often.
Persistence- I did not get response from my students, during the initial days of me sending contents online. Slowly, it turned from 0 responses to 1, and to 2. So, persistence made me understand, if we keep trying, we can see results.
The three P’s have been a motivator now. All these things on one side, what else encourages me? Let me share an incident.
Two weeks back, on a Friday, I called one of my students to inquire about him, his health, his family members, and studies. The child was happy and he shared a lot of things with me. Last week, on the same day and at the same time, he called me back asking why I haven’t called him to speak. I was moved by this incident.
Yes, these small actions bring in a sense of happiness and sparks motivation. It has helped me keep moving up the ladder despite the hurdles that have come along the way.
Where there is a will, there is a way. Hence, I re emphasise- “Every child deserves every chance; No child should have their chances limited by poverty”.
Wordsmith- Monika Thangavelu, Bhumi Fellow