For many of us, the past few months have been the most concerning of our lives. Covid-19 has affected us all, either directly or indirectly, and some of us have had it particularly hard, like the residents of Bakhel in Rajasthan, India. According to Worldometer, India is 3rd in the world for total coronavirus cases – after the US and Brazil – and this number is still rapidly increasing. Thanks to a range of organisations and charities such as Educate for Life (EFL), people in places like Bakhel have been supported by a dedicated team with health advice, essential resources and out-of-school education.
EFL has worked closely with their partners Rajasthan Bal Kalyan Samiti (RBKS) and Kshamtalaya to liaise with government officials and local community leaders in Bakhel to try and ensure that the pandemic’s impact was significantly reduced. They helped spread awareness about the virus via texts, leaflets, murals and direct communication, set up handwashing stations and carried out hygiene demonstrations. The team also distributed emergency kits throughout the community containing reusable masks, disinfecting equipment, food for those in need and ways to stay in contact.
These efforts were especially vital in March as mobile clinic visits normally provided by the Global Hospital and Research Centre were stopped due to the risk of spreading Covid-19 and consequently the community’s access to healthcare services was restricted. Thankfully, in June these visits were allowed to recommence.
Throughout the past few months, EFL’s Safe Motherhood Programme work has continued, with RBKS community health workers supporting 200 women, both remotely (via phone calls and texts) and in person, especially during the later stages of pregnancies. 32 babies have been born.
Besides helping the community, a major part of EFL’s objective has been to meet the educational needs of students stuck at home. In March, schools in India were forced to close in accordance with lockdown measures, many exams were cancelled and some schools like Hunar Ghar were even chosen to become quarantine centres. Despite the challenges students now faced, both local teachers and the volunteer team were determined to prevent disruptions to learning. Once restrictions began to ease in April, the collective group decided to visit pupils’ homes personally to assist their educational progress (while maintaining social distancing). Worksheets and exercises were provided for older children (which were marked and then discussed in later visits), colouring pencils and paper for younger children (to promote creativity) as well as general guidance, wellbeing support, medical advice and academic motivation.
During this initiative, hundreds of homes have been visited (even with the added difficulties of power cuts and limited Wi-Fi) and pupils have been able to keep up their studies in Hindi, Maths, English and Science. Students with mobiles were also offered a free storytelling service and those from classes 5-8 were lent books from Hunar Ghar.
In June, it was confirmed that the students’ exams would be rescheduled and in response, EFL’s partner Kshamtalaya helped students from Mandwa and Jhed Secondary Schools prepare by inviting small groups to attend academic sessions.
The pupils were also provided with study packs (including notes, resources and stationary) in a useful deskit – a desk-school bag hybrid. All the students ended up sitting their exams and are now awaiting their results.
Hunar Ghar has announced that it is set to reopen once it is deemed safe. In the meantime, EFL are working towards expanding their team in order to ensure that those at home will continue to receive educational guidance, fundamental resources and any other assistance that they need.
Find out more about EFL and their partner organisations by visiting their websites:
Educate for Life: https://www.educateforlife.org.uk/
Global Hospital and Research Centre: https://www.ghrc-abu.com/