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Young Girls on a mission to help School children learn during the pandemic

Naba Kishor Pujari

On the occasion of National Youth Day, we bring to you the story of three volunteers who are passionately devoting their time to teach school children affected due to school closure in their village.

Jamuna Podiami gets up early in the morning to finish her household chores before her modest hut turns into a school. A 19-years-old tribal girl from Parajaguda village of Malkangiri district in Odisha, Jamuna completed her higher secondary examination in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. 

However, since December 2020, she has been teaching 35 children from classes 1 to 6 for 3 hours in the morning every day. 

Jamuna Podiami from Parajaguda village of Malkangiri district

After the only primary school in the village was closed in Mid-March 2020 due to the Covid-induced pandemic, many school students began helping their families in herding cows and goats. “After the closure of the primary school in our village due to the pandemic  last year, the education of children paused. None of the children in my village have smartphones thus could not attend online classes initiated by the school and mass education department of the Odisha government”, said Jamuna.

“I am just using my education to help the children to continue their studies as their future depends on it”, she added.

Jamuna is not alone who is trying to help the school children, there are many youths like her who came forward in rural areas to help many such school children whose educations are hampered.

Recognizing the need of the students, a Delhi-based NGO called Atmashakti Trust started ‘Mo Chatashali’, a community-owned education initiative in 17 districts of the state with volunteers like Jamuna has helped over 1 lakh children to continue their education during the pandemic. 

Nurya Patel of Dumerbahal village of Kalahandi district followed Jamuna’s path. After the school closure, she was the only hope for children of her village as most of them had little or no access to online education during the pandemic. 

Nurya Patel of Dumerbahal village of Kalahandi district teaching her students

“Being engaged in a social cause as a volunteer makes me feel extremely happy as my work is somehow bridging the digital divide among children. I also feel that it is important to give back to the community, be it in small ways,” said Nurya.

Every day, Nurya teaches 20 children from Class 1 to 5 in her village with the support of local people’s collective Nagarik Vikas Sangathan. The energy, time, and effort of Nurya are not only helping children to learn but also shaping a pivotal milestone for volunteers to become socially aware and responsible.

The situation of Kaliaguda, a remote village of Kundura block in Odisha’s Koraput district was no different as parents and villagers were dwindling over the non-availability of alternative learning facilities in their locality. 

In this time of crisis, Bhagabati Naik, an 18-year-old girl served as a ray of hope. Bhagabati always had an inclination towards society and always been keen to do something that will have an impact on the lives of the children. She joined as a volunteer in Mo Chatashali centre in her village which is being run by Lok Bikash Mancha with community support.

“I have struggled a lot to continue my education being a girl child and therefore I can’t let these children go through the same hurdles. So, I decided to teach them. Volunteering is something close to my dream where I can see myself in the eyes of the children” said Bhagabati.

Bhagabati with her students in Mo Chatashali centres in her Kaliaguda of Koraput district

Around 18 children are receiving remedial education from Bhagabati for 2 to 3 hours every day.

“For us, Bhagabati is a hope. Children who were almost detached from their books are now back to their learning. Especially, the passion that she puts behind the work is truly inspiring,” shared Sumitra Bhumia, a parent of a child attending the classes.

Praising the efforts of the volunteers, Ruchi Kashyap, executive trustee of Atmashakti Trust said,“Volunteers like Jamuna, Nurya and Bhagabati are examples of how women can set examples by giving back to their communities. Their burning desire to bring social change is what helped us to sustain the initiative. Our idea was to involve local youths in order to help them inculcate ownership and accountability through this engagement. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic was a big blow to education for underprivileged children, these volunteers played a crucial role in keeping these children continue their learning.”

(Naba Kishor Pujari is a Bhubaneswar based development professional)

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