Like millions of students across the country, the education of girls attending the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Musabani block, East Singhbhum district, Jharkhand, was also severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (or KGBVs) are government-run, residential secondary schools for girls from marginalised backgrounds. Due to lockdown-related school closures, all the girls left for their homes at the end of March.
As a result, learning shifted online. Some teachers used WhatsApp to connect with their students, while other students continued their learning through educational programmes on Doordarshan. However, what concerned the KGBV Musabani warden Pinky Kumariji the most, was a group of Adivasi girls, who lived in remote hamlets in hilly, forested areas and didn’t have access to a phone or a TV. So, she devised a solution to connect with these girls.
Pinky roped in Bhojo Singh Banara, the karate teacher at the KGBV, whose village Kotopa is near the Adivasi hamlet. Bhojo Sir has an Android smartphone, and to ensure that the girls continue to learn, the warden sends him the necessary material via SMS or WhatsApp. Once Bhojo Sir gets connectivity, he downloads the material. He also collects hard copies of textbooks from the KGBV or the block office. Then, he trudges up and down the hills for 6-7 km and reaches the girls’ homes. Bhojo Sir talks to them, supports them, distributes textbooks, makes them listen to audio clips by other teachers, and shares the warden’s motivational messages. Bhojo Sir has made this journey every week since June, come rain or sun.
During this crisis, it is not the internet nor TV that is directly supporting girls’ education in remote hamlets, but their teachers, a smartphone, and textbooks.
Lopa Gandhi is the founder of Ugam Education Foundation.
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