13 years old Kiran is starting her morning the way she usually does. After waking up at 6 a.m. she heads to the family dining room where her mother has prepared breakfast: Kafuli vegetable and Phaanu (soupy dish made of lentils), a local cuisine that’s very popular in Dhanaura village in Pithoragarh. After breakfast, Kiran helps her mother with the dishes before feeding the family pets and collecting fruits and vegetables from nearby hilly areas. Her mother is pregnant and expected to give birth in the next few days, so she’s more tired than usual and needs a little extra help around the house.
But the imminent arrival of a new sibling isn’t the only change Kiran has been grappling with. For the past few months, she hasn’t been able to go to school due to the corovirus pandemic.
Five months have passed since school closures across Munakot block, Pithoragarh left some thousands of children like Kiran temporarily out of class. But while many children have not been able to continue learning remotely, in more isolated areas, online learning through VLE Rakesh CSC Acadmey is a great option for them.
With no internet access, no cell phone and no television in her home, Kiran has been relying on online learning through CSC centre of VLE Rakesh. There are more than 500 students in Dhanaura village panchayat in Pithoragarh who are getting quality school education through this CSC. “Many of these children are in vulnerable situations and are impacted by migration, domestic violence, child labour or sometimes cultural beliefs that don’t promote the education of children, particularly girls,” says VLE Rakesh.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the already significant difference in access to education between those living in urban areas and those living in rural parts of Uttarakhand. Almost two thirds of the households in this remote hilly area lack internet connectivity. But thanks to Digital teachers like Rakesh Kumar who are helping these school children through remote learning tools.
The VLE is also engaged in enrolling students of class 3rd till 12th under CSC Olympiads, to provide them a competitive environment and also to inculcate competitive spirit among them. He is focusing to enroll students from far flung remote areas. Utilizing materials that cover traditional subjects – such as Mathematics, History, Hindi, English, family-based activities like cooking and crafts, and new guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 – VLE Rakesh usually guide students, checking on their progress and setting homework.
“I know children can’t go to school right now, but they are still learning at home with help from CSC Academy,” VLE says. “And they’re still able to play in the river and enjoy our beautiful nature.”
Apart from education, VLE has made 1000 Ayushman Bharat cards for villagers. He has done the Economic Census of 5000 citizens.
“With CSC Academy, a new hybrid model of education has emerged in this remote hilly area, with significant benefits. I believe that the ICT integration in education will be further accelerated and that online education through CSC Academy will eventually become an integral component of school education in this area,” says VLE Rakesh.
VLE adds, “It has changed the way of teaching. It enables me to reach out to my students more efficiently and effectively through chat groups, video meetings, voting and also document sharing, especially during this pandemic. Even after coronavirus, I believe traditional offline learning and e-learning through CSC Academy can go hand by hand.”