Night schools that provide education to children from underprivileged backgrounds have been facing a steady decline in attendance ever since the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 23. In an internal survey, Masoom night schools that teach approximately 8,000 students across 85 schools in Maharashtra and Gujarat, found out that there’s a drop out of nearly 40 per cent of its students.
To address the issue, night schools have devised strategies like delivering educational material on WhatsApp, psychological counselling and arranging jobs for these underprivileged students.
“Many of them are jobless, facing a cash crunch and don’t see the opportunity of money coming in the near future. Most want to return but can’t keep education as a priority for now,” said Nikita Ketkar, founder of Masoom.
Ketkar said the dropout rate is high for class 8. “Class 8 is a fluid population which believes they have time and therefore, there is a large drop out,” she said.
Motivate them, provide counselling
Though Masoom provides online classes in schools – which are located mainly in urban centres where internet connectivity is not an issue – the real challenge for them is to keep these students motivated. “We have the additional responsibility of providing psychological counselling to the students who are facing issues like unemployment, domestic violence. We are also trying to provide ration and jobs to alumni,” Ketkar said.
Trupti Anant Mosamkar, 27 and an alumnus of the school, recently started working as a health worker at a hospital in Mumbai. Travelling for four hours daily is a pain but she isn’t complaining as her job is making her sustain at a time when male members of the family are unemployed.
“Due to the financial crunch, I could not complete class 10. So, I enrolled in the night school. During day time, I used to do various odd jobs like making agarbattis etc and in the evening, I focused on completing my secondary education. I did a six-month course in dental assistance after passing class 10,” she said.
‘Learning should not stop’
According to a survey conducted by Local Circle, nearly 48 per cent parents of underprivileged students do not have requisite hardware to support online education. Barefoot College — that runs nearly 50 schools across India and caters to students from tribal and remote areas — is also facing drop out problems. Shuvajit Payne, head of education vertical of the college, told indianexpress.com that they cater to students from rural areas where only 15-20 per cent students have smartphones. “We realised the lockdown might extend and learning should not stop. Therefore, we decided to avoid teaching new subjects and focused on revision,” he said.
They devised strategies to maximise potential through available resources. Students with access to the internet were given content over WhatsApp. They developed audio-based activities that were disseminated using IVR technology. For students who have no access to technology, teachers prepared worksheets and delivered them to the children’s homes every fortnight.
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From the traditional blackboard teaching method to e-learning model, preparing online content was a task for them. “We took one-and-a-half-month during the lockdown to train them about virtual teaching and pandemic precautions,” said Payne.
Sandeep Rajput — who started ‘innovation mobile schools’ in 2010 in Delhi-NCR to teach children of construction labourers — is apprehensive that if the lockdown extends further the syllabus will not be completed.
“I am afraid if the lockdown extends, students will forget what has been taught yet. The real challenge is to complete the syllabus. We are trying hard to at least keep teaching the ones left here,” he said.
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