13 June 2020

In Jharkhand, we are on a mission: Education even in times of corona

By Ranjeet Kumar

Sampark Foundation, along with the Jharkhand government, is working hard to ensure that children continue their education even amid the corona crisis and that the learning curve does not bend in the state. As per a report by Feedback consulting, three out of four children in Jharkhand cannot solve previous grade questions. The learning outcomes among children are low in the state, but the good part is the government has been working on improving the quality of education in the state. We are glad to be a part of their efforts.
 
Sampark Foundation has been working with the government of Jharkhand for the last four years with a single objective--to improve the learning outcomes for children studying in government primary schools across the state. We have already implemented our Math Foundation program in over 13,000 schools and this year, we planned to introduce our English Foundation Program in the state. The state and district-level teams were all set to roll out the teacher training program under which we train teachers in Sampark’s unique and interactive teaching methodologies and provide them with innovative teaching tools comprised of an audio box, TLMs, animated videos and more.
 
Sampark’s English program helps children learn 500 new words, sentence formation using Listening Speaking Reading Writing (LSRW) approach. Sampark Didi, our mascot, who is quite popular with children and teachers in other states, was to be introduced to 10 lakh children in Jharkhand this year.

However, the announcement of the lockdown on March 24th due to coronavirus pandemic immediately halted most of our yearly and quarterly plans. Keeping schools closed as a precautionary measure, the HRD Minister announced holidays in schools till 15th August.  

However, the announcement of the lockdown on March 24th due to coronavirus pandemic immediately halted most of our yearly and quarterly plans. Keeping schools closed as a precautionary measure, the HRD Minister announced holidays in schools till 15th August.

There was a concern that this sudden disruption in education may undo all the efforts we—the government and us—have put so far. The government wanted its partners including Sampark to come up with solutions. And if we want our children to continue their studies from the safety of their homes, it required completely different resources.

We were expected to move fast and use our technologically driven frugal solutions to overcome the current setback. And we delivered.  

In less than a month, Sampark introduced Baithak, a free-of-cost learning and development platform in Hindi for children in primary government schools. This mobile app, available on the Google Play Store, makes learning fun and interactive for children while they are at home. It provides access to thousands of teaching-learning resources in Hindi, including Sampark Smart Shala, animated video lessons, rhymes, stories, interactive and engaging games, and classroom activities, worksheets, quizzes, all mapped to state textbooks and developed in accordance with the states’ syllabus.
 
Besides, we extended our existing collaboration with the state and joined hands in the Digi-SATH program initiated by NITI Aayog. Leveraging the reach of satellite and cable TV, the state education department collaborated with SCERT, DD Jharkhand, Sampark Foundation, and other organizations to provide interactive educational content to children at home. On an urgent basis, the Sampark team worked on its existing repository of Math and English videos to prepare them so that they could be aired on DD Jharkhand.   
 
Social media tools such as WhatsApp groups were used to inform more and more teachers, parents, and children about the various steps taken by the government to help children continue their studies even when the schools are shut.  
 
So far, the response to Sampark Baithak and the programs aired on Doordarshan has been remarkable as teachers, parents, and children adapt to these new methods of learning from home.
 
This is just the beginning. We are determined to succeed in our mission, no matter what.

(The writer is the State Head, Jharkand, at Sampark Foundation. Views expressed are personal.)