The mind has no room for fresh knowledge when the stomach runs on empty and the mobile-phone lacks a data pack. Two weeks into the lockdown, in deference to this obvious wisdom, Yein Udaan started providing data pack and ration kit to the families of the children it has taken under its wing. Incidentally, Yein Udaan means “My Wings”.
The not-for-profit operates a free knowledge centre in Chetpet imparting “socio-emotional learning, wellbeing and life skills” to children aged 8 to 14, drawn from low-income families in Chetpet, Kilpauk and Egmore.
Vedika Agarwal reveals that after the learning was shifted online, children’s attendance was patchy in the first two weeks.
“Since April, we have been topping up the parents’ phones with data pack that comes with a 28-day validity and 2 GB a day. This way, the children would continue attending our online sessions. This data packs costs around ₹ 250 per month and that is money these families would want to utilise towards food. The parents are daily-wage earners. Creating buy-in from the parents about the need for digital, continuous learning was difficult. They had other anxieties centred around sustenance. So, we have consistently provided them with monthly ration kits,” explains Vedika.
The digital learning over the last six months is delivered over Zoom and WhatsApp.
“The digital learning programme is focussed on social and emotional well-being, and combines theatre, music, poetry and art. We also have WhatsApp learning groups. If they are having poor connectivity, or their devices don’t support Zoom, they can continue learning by WhatsApp,” says Vedika.
Through posters, the children and parents are taken through how best they can exploit the different features in Zoom and WhatsApp and also troubleshoot problems.
The children’s attendance is tracked continuously.
“The one-hour Zoom session, conducted every day, consumes about one GB. So, for one hour we expect the student to be in attendance. We track the attendance, and if a child is found lagging in it, we talk to the parents, seeking to find out the reason,” she explains.
“For those children who don’t have access to smart phones, we do a check-in phone call once a week, and conduct a short session, say, on story-telling or math.”
While the learning programmes are largely delivered via the digital route, efforts to create an in-person learning experience are not lacking.
“With the pandemic keeping everyone at home, we dismantled the library in our school space which we divided into six learning centres. We distributed the books and toys across these divisions. We have equipped the homes/ libraries with laptops so that kids can continue learning. If it is a book or a game they want, they can take it home from the library and return it within a week. If they want to use the laptop, they have to come to the centre. Now that parents are slowly going back to work and taking their phones with them, we are encouraging the children to use the laptops for the sessions specifically.”