Mohalla Classes to Tide through the Pandemic

Mohalla Classes to Tide through the Pandemic

Seventeen year old Kavita Jaiswal has been teaching children in her neighbourhood in Kallu Ka Purwa hamlet in the Raebareli town area since June 2020. She runs what is called a mohalla school. She took up teaching these children during the lockdown because neither could they go to school nor access digital education. Moreover, most of these children are first generation learner, so there was no help from parents either. These children were at a risk of becoming 'out of school’ had youth volunteers like Kavita not stepped up.

Around 3.43 crore of children enrolled in elementary schools (standard 1 to 8th) had to discontinue education for more than a year due to the pandemic. Schools shut since March 2020 opened only recently in August. But even now many parents are not sending their children to school due to the fear of the third wave. Such long closure of schools mean huge learning loss for children across the state. The worst affected are the children from the marginalised sections who are mostly first generation learners and if parents are even semi-literate they were unable to give any time to the children as they went about earning their daily wages in what was very tough and trying times. Physical schools, thus, are the only source of learning for these children.

This scenario motivated youth and School Management Committee (SMC) members who took the responsibility of providing education for these children through Mohalla classes. Oxfam India identified around 120 such volunteers in Raebareli and Banda districts to whom training and support was provided with the help of government teachers so that they can take mohalla classes in their own area. Kavita was one of them.

A student of class 11, Kavita has become some sort of a role model for the community. "I started teaching children through mohalla classes from June last year when Sanjay ji from Oxfam India and Nand Tripathi Sir (government school teacher) motivated me to take mohalla classes for children.” She was anyways teaching her younger siblings so the prospect of taking classes for more children excited her. “I agreed to volunteer for the social cause so at the time of crisis education of children do not get hampered. There is no one who could have taught the children here and if we didn’t then children would lose interest in education and eventually drop out.”

Parents were initially concerned about COVID-19 and were not sending their children to the mohalla classes. So she went to each one of their homes to talk and convince the parents individually. This worked. The mohalla classes started with 10 children. Soon another 10 joined. Her classes would be from 10 am to 1 pm. “On some days it would extend to a couple of more hours,” she smiles.

The next hurdle was teaching material and notebooks. She approached a govt school teacher, Suman who arranged for books and learning materials for children. Suman also guided her with some teaching techniques. A venue too was needed. Once again a teacher and the cook of the nearby school extended support and provided space and mat for teaching.

Oxfam India provided training on COVID-safety protocols that were needed to be followed by children and volunteers like Kavita. Special emphasis was laid on handwashing, and practicing social distancing.

What has kept the 17-year-old going? “Parents of the students thanked me for teaching their children. One day, a news reporter also came to visit my class and covered my story. This motivated me a lot. My confidence became stronger with this. I also want to become a teacher in future.”

Kavita’s motivation has been her mother, Sharda, who is the president of the school management committee of the primary school at Kallu Ka Purwa. Sharda has been an active member of the SMC for many years now and is a role model for parents. She motivated her daughter for this work.

During pandemic when all schools were shut down, Oxfam India supported around 1700 children with mohalla classes across Raebareli and Banda. Around 120 volunteers were trained with the help of gram panchayat and school teachers. SMCs also volunteered to support children by managing the school library and issuing books to children. 

This was a much needed support that was provided to children who otherwise would have dropped out school and pushed into child labour.

📢Oxfam India is now on Telegram. Click here to join our Telegram channel and stay tuned to the latest updates and insights on social and development issues.


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