– Mamta Baxi, Program Coordinator, Cosmo Foundation
With the dawn of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown declared by the Government of India, the movement of men, material, machinery and social & economic activities got stalled. Everyone witnessed the wheel of the social train being completely derailed. In this gloomy scenario, everyone is affected including the young & old, youth & students and the rural & urban population.
In these times, when the schools and colleges across every town and village have kept their shutters closed, Cosmo Foundation, a community outreach initiative of Cosmo Films, is catering to the needs of rural marginalized children by providing quality education on topics like computer education, English, life skills, arithmetic and native languages through online digital platforms. The foundation has been partnering with several government schools across the country since 2008; which is managed by a team of professionals and local youth who are trained and placed as teachers.
In today’s time, when computer and English learning are prerequisites for survival, the organization with its digitalized video recorded sessions, imparts activity based English communication skills to 75 rural youth trained and placed as community based teachers across Karjan in Gujarat and in Gangapur in Maharashtra; with the objective of creating comfort with the language. The youth and community teachers, converse in the group with the help of audio and video and answer various exercises developed by the Senior English Faculty of the organization. It includes picture and story comprehension, phonics, public speaking by recording individual videos, loud reading of newspaper headlines to learn correct pronunciation, grammar classes on zoom etc. Group mentors provide individual corrections and answer keys that are uploaded at end of the day.
The sessions are not just about having calls on zoom or showcasing videos on YouTube but to engage learners, get their answer sheets and feedback. Uzma, a computer teacher in village Limbe Jalgaon has formed group of 40 students and will soon start English coaching with mentor-ship from Cosmo, Vadodara.
Looking at the vibrant results in improvement in English speaking, and at the request of parents to engage their students in constructive activities, we have extended the benefits of these lessons to rural students by forming Whatsapp groups of parents. Despite the challenges of taking rural students to the online platform, the organization undertook an extensive exercise of calling parents and has created 42 parents’ WhatsApp groups benefitting 1800 students across 19 villages of Karjan block in Vadodara. Students from class 4th to 9th are covered. Different Whatsapp groups are created for different ages and activities are delivered accordingly.
CF has developed a comprehensive weekly schedule of home-based learning for students, focusing on developing their analytical skills, use of digital literacy in day to day life, puzzles for developing problem solving skill, values through stories, Gujarati and English language development through comprehension and creative exercises , practical activities on maths and calculations, inspirational and educational counselling videos, soft skill development programs, entertainment through magic show clips etc. Some of the digital programs introduced by the government of Gujarat named as “Pankhino Malo” (Birds’ Nest) is also being used.
Majority of these contents are being conceived and produced by the in-house team of Cosmo Foundation. Awareness videos on social distancing, personal hygiene, use of Arogya Setu application, models of craft activities and moral values through stories developed by the organization are also shared in the group. Daily general knowledge questions are placed in the group and the students are supposed to respond on the same.
Teachers of Cosmo Foundation are in constant touch with the parents and students, they encourage students and discuss about the lesson plans on daily basis and guide them to stay indoors. Parents have also generated an interest and appreciated this initiative.
Some Parents from Choranda village said that these initiatives have engaged their children in productive activities and prevented them from roaming around on the streets. Parents contact Cosmo teachers to learn some of the applications on their mobile phones for their children’s use and learning. In Khandha village, few parents called Cosmo teachers and asked “Guide us how to open the PDF file, how to open videos sent through Google Drive” In the event of recharging their mobiles phones, the parents contact the teachers and thus they are learning from Cosmo teachers how to recharge online, which is so important for Digital India as well. The enthusiasm of parents has led to students taking utmost interest and asking teachers to take more such sessions online.
Students have reciprocated very actively on WhatsApp groups with their learning responses through videos and photographs. Students prepare videos on how they maintain personal hygiene inspired by the organization, which is the inevitable need as of today due to the pandemic. They also teach their family members about this. Inspired by the philanthropic work undertaken by Cosmo Foundation, a student named Naitik Vasava of Kurali village in Karjan insisted to his parents for biscuits distribution among the needy. Parents did accordingly and appreciated the foundation in nurturing such values in children. The parents of Shivani Varma, a student living in Kandari village; have been stuck in another state due to the lockdown, which isolated this girl alone at home. She constantly remains in touch with Cosmo teacher Shila Machhi on phone, who is doing rigorous monitoring of her livelihood and emotional needs through her neighbours.
In one teaching video by Cosmo Foundation on how to book railway tickets online, Hemin Patel, studying in 10th standard in Patel J.K. Sarvajanik High School, Kandari said that he knew that train tickets could be booked online, but the session taught him the process of online train ticket booking as well.
So, this is how Cosmo Foundation has connected the lives of students and trying to take them to this fairly untapped way of education. We also plan to share motivational videos, career guidance orientation and value-based movies & plays, so that it constructively engages parents and students in the education process and make them realize the positive impact of technology and its usage to educate their children for a brighter future.