The COVID- 19 virus has so far infected millions of people in the world and Bangladesh is no different. To stop the spread of this pandemic, the government initiated a country wide shutdown of schools, offices, factories, restaurants, etc and strongly encouraged people to stay home unless it’s an emergency.
In line with this, education institutions are closed for an indefinite period. As a result, thousands of children are cut off from education. Around the world, governments have taken various initiatives to ensure access to education which is the fourth goal of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Though SDG 4 speaks about Quality Education, in a time of epidemic, the focus was to ensure that students have access to any sort of education.
In Bangladesh the current Government’s vision is “Digital Bangladesh” and like other governments, they also took the initiative of teaching students by broadcasting pre-recorded lessons through television. Along with that, some private schools, with students mainly belonging to the higher class of the society, have started teaching students using internet and video conferencing softwares like Zoom and WebEx. But students’ belonging to the middle class have no option unless their parents could manage some time from the new lifestyle of “Work from Home”, which many are still facing hard to adjust to. When it comes to the underprivileged community, they are busy making sure that they have food to survive.
JAAGO Foundation has been providing quality education to underprivileged children in Bangladesh for the last 13 years and in this global pandemic, the foundation has been trying to make sure that the students and their families can survive in this crisis and come back to school. For the last 2 months, JAAGO Foundation has been providing food packages and other essentials to all the students’ families and surrounding communities who are from a similar background. In Bangladesh, it is said that the first wave of coronavirus still hasn’t passed. This means no education for the poor.
Really? Even in the 21st century, is this how we are treating people, just because they don’t have money?
The answer is NO. In the second week of the pandemic, JAAGO Foundation who have 13 years experience of running Online school or Online Education, recognized by UNESCO, opened it’s Digital Education Initiative for everyone. This means at least the middle class can have access to education. Trained teachers sitting in their home, maintaining social distancing, were teaching thousands of students who are locked down at home. The Government has also appreciated this initiative and have added this to their official website which is created to fight the pandemic. But still some people are left behind, in the era of “No One Left Behind”. This included thousands of students of JAAGO, for whom a basic internet connection is considered a luxury, let alone a computer, this alternative approach of online education is not possible.
To make a difference in the lives of these untouched ones, JAAGO came up with an innovative approach to providing education to our students. Through their “Tel-Ed” initiative, JAAGO will be operating classes over the voice messaging service and short messaging service.
SMS and phone calls will be made by trained teachers to every student individually according to their needs. Students will have the opportunity to read, write, learn and understand the concepts with the teacher seating far away from them. This interactive education model will not only help students overcome their mental health situation but will also help them to learn their academic objectives under the National Curriculum & Textbook Board widely known as NCTB. Maybe after reading this article, it sounds great and really easy but to ensure this, not only students but parents also have to be convinced. JAAGO will be conducting special parents teachers counselling to bring them onboard. Under this initiative, to encourage the parents to continue their children’s education, food and other essentials will be provided according to their basic need.
The aim of the initiative is to maintain each student’s link with formal schooling and reduce the rate of student dropouts. We hope this will ensure that once things get back to normal, students returning to the classroom will not be overburdened with the process of having to familiarise themselves with the curriculum and the learning process all over again.