This Children’s Day, Not Every Child Is Present In Their (Virtual) Classroom
While this abrupt shift to digital from physical has helped maintain a semblance of continuity for students, it has also brought a whole new set of challenges.
Photo Credit : Photo Courtesy: BW Disrupt,
2020 has been a transformational year for Indian education in general. This year saw the release of the country’s updated National Education Policy; its importance can be gauged by the fact that this document’s last edition was published in 1986. Pre-schools and anganwadis have been brought under the ambit of formal schooling. The higher education regulators (UGC and AICTE) are all set to be phased out, to be replaced by a single overarching HECI (Higher Education Council of India). And in between all these changes, both students & teachers are adapting to yet another subtle, but seismic change: attending classes in digital classrooms.
While this abrupt shift to digital from physical has helped maintain a semblance of continuity for students, it has also brought a whole new set of challenges:
Electricity supply: According to a 2017-18 survey under Mission Antyodaya, only 47% of rural households received more than 12 hours of electricity supply, leading to potential disruption of online classes.
Digital devices: A report on Household Social Consumption: Education (2017-18) by the National Statistics Office found that only 14.9% rural households had access to the internet, while the corresponding figure for urban households was 42%.
Income woes & job losses: Across India, the working class has been facing major challenges: job losses, reduction in wages, along with the rising cost of living. For many families, government schools made education possible at a minimal cost, while also providing one nutritious meal to their children every day. At home now, education has not only become expensive - with a fully charged internet device & related data packs - but has left children with less to eat at home.
Inconsistent learning process: In their formative years especially, children should be in the thick of learning and understanding. In today’s unusual circumstances, governments are even using mass media devices like radios and televisions innovatively to reach every child. But without their peers, the lack of a personalized learning process may be a further setback for school & college-going students.
The Search For Solutions
NGOs across India have stepped up to address these challenges, and have created wonders with their limited resources. But therein lies the rub; in the midst of the subsequent economic crisis sweeping across the globe, NGOs don’t have enough funds to even sustain themselves, let alone commit resources for a cause. A state stretched to its maximum capacity and a civil society running on fumes; where does a student in distress turn to then? The pandemic has given us an unexpected - answer to this question: other people. Or to give it a better term: crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is a means to reach out to people you know - and even strangers - and request them to help you for a cause. The cause could be anything: medical expenses running into lakhs, or to keep an animal shelter up and running, or to help a child continue his studies. The benefits are many and varied:
No payback liability: The amount donated to your cause does not have to be repaid. Regardless of the amount that you have raised, you can withdraw your funds without having to pay it back.
A social, but anonymous, platform: Understanding the stigma associated with asking for financial assistance in India, campaigners have the option of keeping their fundraisers private too. This can make it easier for parents crowdfunding for their children’s requirements to navigate through the process without having to feel the sense of a certain judgement. Intangible aspects like these can actually make the biggest difference for individuals.
Global awareness: As much as the pandemic has held us back it has also taught us all one thing - togetherness can bring great change. People globally are aware of the grave inconveniences Covid-19 has brought upon us. And many have displayed incredible acts of kindness toward others. The generosity of donors is one such example. People understand that campaigners need help and are willing to go the extra mile and assist them with their needs. Raising funds for the needs of children deprived of education is one such cause that many understand and are willing to help. And fundraising can only make this more convenient for those looking to get this help.
All types of causes can use crowdfunding: Everyone from schools to NGOs and individual households can crowdfund for the causes of children. Schools can invite their alumni to help donate towards the development of the students from the current batches. Older students themselves can choose to crowdfund for the needs of other kids, like that of the school’s watchman, or domestic help.
Presence of success stories: Even though crowdfunding in India is at a relatively nascent stage compared to its western peers, there is no dearth of success stories. For example, Sparsha Trust from Bangalore raised over Rs. 2 lakh to fund the college education of underprivileged girls in the city. What’s more, even individual dreams can also become a reality: Aparajita Mishra was accepted to the prestigious Royal College of Arts in London, but her savings and funds fell way short of the estimated expenses. She too turned to crowdfunding and was able to raise part of the shortfall through her campaign.
True, crowdfunding is not a panacea for one and all. In fact, in usual circumstances, the pitch would be made for institutional reforms, first, and remedial measures like crowdfunding, second. But these are not normal times that we live in. Already, the government of India has noted the power of crowdfunding and even suggested using it, namely in the recent draft proposed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for the treatment of rare diseases. This November, as Children’s Day approaches, crowdfunding can also help secure the future of our children.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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