SKOCH Award Nominee
Category: Innovation – State
Sub-Category: subInnovation – State
Project: Ghare Ghare Arunima – different pre-school activities by the children lead by the parents and family members@home to foster learning continuity during COVID-19
Start Date: 2020-05-19
Organisation: Women and Child Development Department, Government of Odisha
Respondent: Ms Das Madhumita NA, State ECCE Consultant
Level: Excellence Plus
Children have been some of the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have forced schools and learning centres to be shut down, which means children, especially young children, have struggled with adapting to the new normal.
Early childhood education has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Children, especially those 3-6 years old, can no longer attended Early Childhood Care and Education programmes run at their local Anganwadi Centres. All schools and educational institutions have remained shut for the past year. This has not only affected children’s educational journey but also posed severe challenges to their emotional, mental and social development. Another worrying impact has been that of the nutritional deficit suffered by children dependent on the THR and Midday Meal scheme.
As distancing norms become commonplace, the childhood education and development niche too tried to adapt. However, this exercise has also been riddled with challenges since most parents were unprepared and ill-equipped to manage their children’s learning needs in the lockdown. Prior to the pandemic, the bulk of a child’s educational and development experience was overseen by the Anganwadi Centres. It has been challenging for the AWCs to adapt to social distancing and remote functioning practices because early childhood education typically requires a very energetic, hands-on approach. Duplicating the AWC atmosphere at home has been difficult. Outreach efforts involve a lot of planning because the pandemic does not allow for close-quarters interactions. The rural and hilly terrain of Odisha has also made it physically difficult for AWWs to plan many home visits. The primary concern in this period has been that of the dropping-out rate increasing. Child enrolment was recorded at 60%.
The Ghar Ghar Arunima programme was designed under the Integrated Child Development Scheme of the Department of Women & Child Development and Mission Shakti, Govt. of Odisha. The project aims to deliver the ECCE experience to children despite schools and AWCs being shut down. The home-based, play-way, interactive method of education is designed to stimulate children’s senses and create an enjoyable, effective classroom-like atmosphere in the house. A special Ghar Ghar Arunima Calendar was created, with monthly themes to keep the curriculum fun and interesting. These were delivered to beneficiaries’ homes.
Digital technology has been used efficiently to implement and monitor the programme. WhatsApp groups, social media and smartphones have been critical for communication between AWWs, parents and project teams. Telemonitoring has helped keep a track of beneficiaries’ experiences. The project teams have been able to provide constant support and advice to parents and guardians. Field visits and in-person communication has been used to supplement gaps wherever technological access is limited or greater enthusiasm needs to be cultivated.
Proper childhood nutrition is essential for physical and emotional development and wellbeing. To replace the Midday Meals missed because of the lockdown, the Ghar Ghar Arunima programme delivers supplementary nutrition supplies to beneficiaries’ homes.
The learning programmes are designed to deliver important lessons while holding children’s attention. Video conferences with stories, songs and workbooks help children stay engaged. YouTube videos, live programmes and storytelling sessions guarantee participation. Teaching in the local/ mother tongue lets family members like grandparents become a part of the exercise. There is an emphasis on developing advanced social and linguistic skills under the ‘Mother Tongue to Other Tongue’ agenda, so that children are better equipped to engage with more people as they grow up. This highly-interactive, stimulating setting supports childhood personality and social skills development.
Child enrolment has grown to 72%. 17.63 Lakh children have benefited from this programme. The project has involved 72,587 AWCs, 3803 Supervisors, 338 CDPOs and 30 DSWOs.
Children’s educational and development needs don’t have to suffer because of the pandemic. Home-based learning is an innovative but effective way of continuing children’s social, intellectual, physical, emotional and mental development in these unprecedented circumstances. The play-way setting is energetic, engaging and enjoyable. It allows parents, teachers and AWWs to meet their targets while children continue to have fun and experience a new kind of classroom learning.
The programme has had far-reaching consequences because it goes beyond traditional education. Families and children don’t just stick to a school curriculum; they’ve learned about the importance of Covid-19 precautions, social distancing and better hygiene practices. The programme is inculcating a sense of deeper understanding and responsible behaviour not only to keep beneficiaries safe in the present but to also prepare them for the future when ECEs open up.
Families have become closer than ever as a result of this programme. Parents and relatives are now more involved in their children’s educational journeys and are taking ownership of the same. The conventional setup where only mothers know what is going on in their children’s schooling has changed. More and more fathers have been brought into the fold. Families are able to help their children despite limitations of their own literacy/ educational levels because these new teaching methods are unconventional and easy-to-grasp.
Continuity in education is improved. The administration expects a greater number of children to join back once institutions are reopened.
Adapting to the new teaching/ learning methods has been the primary challenge since nobody has ever dealt with such a situation before. Getting families onboard has been one of the main tasks. Getting fathers and male family members involved in their children’s early childhood learning needs has required some effort. AWWs have had to reach out to families and explained the importance of full-family participation. Communicating the lesson plans is not enough: AWWs and FLWs have to hand-hold parents throughout the process to ensure there are no gaps in delivery. This means a robust support system is needed.
Disparity in access to digital technology and communication devices has meant lesson plans and teaching methods cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach. Families that do not have smartphones or Internet connections cannot be a part of the digital learning or feedback system. Digital communication helps cross physical barriers, but it depends on accessibility and availability.
The capacity of the ICDS functionaries has improved through this experience. Adapting to the new, highly-challenging situation while working with the traditional challenges like terrain, technology, accessibility, social attitudes, etc., has resulted in smarter, more effective planning.
In order to make the programme inclusive, barriers in digital access have been taken into consideration. Printed teaching/learning materials were delivered to families who need them.
Community awareness about the campaign and the benefits of early childhood education was raised through print, social and electronic media. Beneficiaries have been encouraged to share feedback. This has been done digitally and in-person. Parents and children are asked about their experiences using the new teaching/learning programmes so that it can be adjusted to deliver better.
Project runners have taken cognizance of the deep mental health impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on children and their families. Counselling services have been built into the Ghar Ghar Arunima programme. Ankur Day is specially organised for this purpose.
There is potential for further adapting teaching methods, facilities and curricula before AWCs, schools and educational institutions open up fully again. Institutions must look into data-based strategies and create approaches that not only allow for safety against Covid-19 but are also more efficient in terms of the results achieved against operational goals.
The programme is a shining example of human spirit. Despite immense challenges, the Odisha WCD Department has found a way to continue serving children and vulnerable families in the pandemic. There has been a serious effort to ensure that child needs, education and development are not hindered by the pandemic and lockdowns. Promoting, protecting and promising child care continues to be a top priority for the government.
For more information, please contact:
Ms Das Madhumita NA, State ECCE Consultant at email@example.com
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