EVOLVING EDUCATION MODELS IN COVID TIMES: FOREST DWELLING COMMUNITIES
Access is an issue even in the 21st century for a slew of services which are part of the Constitutional Dictum. The inability of the system to ensure access and availability of Education for the Forest Dwelling - pastoral nomads & sedentary - communities has widened the literacy gap. These conditions are complicating existing issues of - Learning Outcomes, Absenteeism, Non Functional - in government schools. The schools in the Lower Himalayan region are geographically distant from the centralised systemic hierarchy which leads to minimal to no attention to the realities that they are running in - Van Vidyalay (under the egis of the Forest Department) and Primary and Middle Schools under State Ed Department.
In the pre COVID times there were instances of irregular functioning, absenteeism, poor enrolment and learning outcomes in Van Vidyalay and govt schools. These were issues which we had been working on and were putting in place processes to overcome. We had achieved success in building a consensual narrative on Education. The above mentioned challenges were improving with the engagement of stakeholders.
The advent of COVID unsettled the efforts. The ability of the stakeholders was challenged to come up with solutions. The narrative that had been built led to the parents, us and community in general talk about the issue of shutting down of schools and children loosing the 'Education Connect'. We engaged with the Community and prepared local solutions at affordable cost to initiate a reboot of the 'Education Connect'. The system as a stakeholder and its silence on the issue was bewildering though. The system blanked out with zero communication or action for primary and secondary schools.
Our efforts around
At home learning via worksheets, workbooks
Youth engaging children
Project Based Learning
Jungle Library Network
have been engaging the children on a continual basis with learning and growing.
As we carry on to look at possible engagements with all stakeholders we have realised a community centric ownership is more fruitful and effective. The COVID times have been a proof for the same. During COVID we initiated at home learning and activities conducted by the community youth - boys and girls - which was a fair success. The stakeholders - parents, youth, community, Samanta - came together to work in tandem. The system as a stakeholder though was missing. All along we observed that the narrative around - 1. TV 2. Radio 3. Mobile 4. Internet - to study was so overarching in the systemic thought process that any other possibility was hardly looked at. The limited participation in the Unlock phases by Teachers visiting the home of children to scribble some work in pages/copies of kids is lethargic at max. It is expecting the other stakeholders to respond without any efforts of coordination or coherence. These also are being made at places where school is in the middle of the community geographically. The primary and middle schools have been completely shut down as a result. The education in Forest Schools has not even experienced the visit by Teacher or 'scribble'.
The road ahead for us has been to initiate conversations with the system. The role of youth as a bridge has gathered relevance. The idea is to build a framework of engaging youth on a continual basis to work towards engaging them in building solutions to the challenges in tandem with the system. How do we do it? Start from elements of trust, respect for community knowledge, sustainability of effort. Is investing on Community Youth as Leaders feasible? At Samanta we firmly believe in building local leadership, community institutions and stakeholdership. These COVID times have reinforced the relevance of local action using local resources and experience/knowledge acting as enablers.
Samanta has developed a plan and we would be sharing the same SOON! We will be happy to listen in to suggestions, DM us/Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org