In the past three months of lockdown, 17-year-old Sanju Kotla has been attending online classes conducted over WhatsApp. Every day for one hour, from 2pm to 3pm, he learns different subjects, thanks to the enthusiastic university students who are eager to teach children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Fatima is particularly fond of her "Mehek teacher who teaches English" and shows off with pride the new words she has just learnt in the last class. "I also learnt division and understood my mistakes after the test was conducted," says 12-year-old Fatima, who lives with her parents in Motiya Khan in Delhi.
While everyone's cooped up inside the confines of their homes during the ongoing lockdown as cases show no signs of abating, some youngsters decided to make the most of their time, educating underprivileged children in slums across India. Students from various universities across the country are volunteers with 'Teach From Home', an initiative by the non-profit organisation World Youth Council(WYC) which works to provide education to underprivileged children with access to basic technological resources.
Started in mid-April after the lockdown, the classes are held virtually on WhatsApp or Google meet if the child has a smart phone. If not, lessons are also imparted by way of a regular phone call which keeps the student engaged for at least an hour. "We have created our own curriculum and try to use their books as well so that there is some reference point. We even send them worksheets created in-house by our members. We did our own assessment of each individual child and have our own levels for grading the students and do not essentially follow the grading system of regular schools. We have around 3,000-3,500 children who are learning with us and about 2,500 volunteers – 95 per cent of who are themselves students, teaching these children from less priviledged backgrounds," said Urvashi Goyal, founder, 'Teach From Home' initiative.
According to Goyal, the programme is now active in four cities, impacting children with direct intervention on daily basis with the help of trained volunteers. "We are proud to be able to arrive at 50 per cent improvement rate in the competence level and learning ability of all our children. With 'Dream 5,000' we aim to reach 5,000 underprivileged children with the help of 5,000 volunteers where each volunteer enrolls one child. The volunteer will actively support and monitor the learning of the child for one month. We have a team of 2,000 active volunteers presently, with more than 3,000 children being supported in their education now," adds Goyal.