A School Away From School

A School Away From School

  • Education
  • By Ankur Raushan & Mahika Banerji
  • 03 Mar, 2022

Meera is a 13-year-old girl in the sixth standard from Yona village in Jharkand’s Lohardaga district. To support her family with farm work, she works in their fields. When she started attending Mohalla Classes in her village, it was observed that she was suffering from malnutrition. Along with the daily curriculum, Oxfam India’s volunteers and community mobilizers running the Mohalla Classes decided to educate children about important lessons such as health and nutrition.

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools in Jharkhand have been shuttered for the a very long time now. Primary schools have been shut for two years, and Upper Primary and High Schools were only reopened for four months in 2021. This prolonged school closure has completely disrupted the education for the majority of children in the state, since only a privileged few could continue their education online.

To bridge this wide learning gap in children’s education, Oxfam India stepped in with setting up Mohalla Classes in Jharkhand’s Lohardaga district. Lohardaga is a predominantly tribal area that has had many developmental setbacks. The district residents comprise people from the Oraon, Manjhi and Mahli tribal communities, as well as people from the Muslim and OBC community.

When Oxfam India conducted an assessment, in December 2021, to track the number of out of school children in the Senha and Lohardaga blocks in the district, they found that 370 children in the area were out of school. Some of these children had never even been enrolled in a school.

After speaking to some parents and the local women’s collective (Mahila Mandal) and assessing the on-ground situation, Oxfam India set up five Mohalla Classes, one each in five villages in Lohardaga, with support from local volunteers who are guided by community mobilisers. A total number of 59 children between the age group of 5-14 years attend the Mohalla Classes, with 42 girls and 17 boys.

The Mohalla Classes are regularly held for one to two hours daily in an open space wherein COVID-19 safety protocols are strictly followed. Books and stationery materials are provided with support from the Gram Pradhan and the more privileged members in the community. To ensure that children are completely engaged, and have fun while they’re at it the learning methods implemented in the Mohalla Classes are child-friendly and activity-based including games, plays and songs. 

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Besides the regular educational curriculum, children are also taught important lessons such as handwashing and nutrition, and are encouraged to participate in sports and arts and crafts. Oxfam India’s volunteers and community mobilizers spoke to Meera and her family at length about nutritious food that can be accessed in her family’s farm and in the village. This benefitted her immensely and she is well on her way to recovery. Now Meera tells other children about how they can stay healthy with vegetables and fruits grown from their fields.

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