DH Radio | The Lead: This Bengaluru-based NGO uses postcards to mentor children in Bihar

Last Updated 25 September 2020, 06:49 IST

In today's episode of The Lead from DH Radio, we look into an NGO's novel idea to use postcards to mentor children in Bihar. When their project with school children in Bihar was interrupted by Covid-19, Bengaluru-based NGO, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) came up with the idea to continue the project using postcards. Its director Dr. Jyotsna Jha, talks about how the project succeeded and could well provide an alternative for electronic devices children use for online classes.

L Subramani: This is L Subramani for DH Podcast. At a time when doctors and educationists are so concerned about online classes, a city-based NGO has tested a learning method that could well be a game changer for children who are forced to learn from home.

In 2018, the Center for Budget and Policy Studies joined hands with the Malala Fund to mentor students in 10 Bihar schools, the project was interrupted earlier this year by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lockdown that followed. Researchers at CBPS put their heads together and came up with the idea of using postcards to continue the mentorship program. Dr. Jyotsna Jha, Director of CBPS told us how it worked, and how the learning method would be effective for children of all backgrounds.

Dr Jyotsna Jha: The postcard idea came only after Covid-19 . What happens that we are working with 10 schools and what used to happen is that one mentor goes every week to one school, so one schools gets once in seven days. So that's the model we are using. And five schools in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and five schools in Patna, two districts. We work intensely. The idea is it's an action research project.

So idea is that we document each and everything like any activity that we do, how did children respond and everything their attendance patterns, responses, the kind of families they come from teacher-student relationship that they have in school. And based on that we then formalize a model that can be used for mentoring of girls and boys, adolescent, early adolescent boys and girls on issues. The idea is to develop critical skill, but we are using issues of gender, diversity, environment, science, communication, that is the idea.

L Subramani: The first question that probably comes to us is that when you even in even in the lockdown period, you know, there is always the image of children sitting before the the tablet, the tablet PCs, or their smartphones, to attend classes or to take any training session So it's very curious that you chose the postcard model for this.

Dr Jyotsna Jha: No, so what happened that when schools got closed, and in Bihar, they got closed even before the lockdown because of the teachers strike. And then came the lockdown. So we were wondering what to do, we were aware through our earlier research, not in this area, but we have done a major long-term research on open schooling.

And we knew that access to technology is very limited. And we also knew that it's not only the affordability, there are other structural issues, for example, girls don't have access even if the household owns a phone and those kinds of things.

So, what we did is that we did a rapid survey. So about half of our children had phones and since we had done we had the earlier research, we had addresses and phone numbers and we realized that only half had phones and only about say one third or less than third had smartphones and half of that or about say 15% of our children actually had access to net-based learning if at all. So, therefore, the idea of postcard you know, w were talking as a team, and then we came up with this idea that why not use postcard.

Tune in to the podcast to know more about the conversation.

(Published 25 September 2020, 01:35 IST)

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