*Picture shows The Art of Living's SSGM school students who attend online classes.

I wish class in the school remains locked up because I prefer to learn lessons online", said Roshan Kumar (10), one of the students of a school run by the Art of Living at Patragonda in Ranchi. His sense of enthusiasm was visible in his attendance as he had not missed a single online class so far. Amid the Coronavirus outbreak that has led to a lockdown, all educational institutions in Jharkhand are closed. Against this backdrop, many private schools and colleges have shifted to online education though the same hasn’t reached many students from the marginalised communities. The delay in reaching out has caused a discontinuity in their education which has the potential to aggravate existing disparities and leave these children behind in the learning curve.

A piece of good news is: they were not left behind, thanks to Sri Sri Gnan Mandir Schools (SSGM), a group of schools run by Art of Living in Jharkhand. Indira Singh and Ayush Modi of SSGM collaborated with Shikhar Kataruka and Tanvi Bajaj from World Youth Council, an NGO founded by Ms. Urvashi Goyal, to expand the reach of online classes to underprivileged kids in and around Ranchi.

The latter runs a project called Teach from Home, a volunteer-driven movement to support online education for underprivileged students through mediums like WhatsApp, Google Meet and YouTube. In cases where a smartphone is not available classes are also being held over simple voice calls. Today, the initiative has expanded to include as many as 60 students who are being taught English, Maths and Science, 3 days a week. 

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* 1. Shikhar Kataruka 2. Indira Singh 3. Ayush Modi 4. Tanvi Bajaj

Indira Singh, founder of a school for drop-out students, together with Shikhar, Tanvi and Ayush had conceptualised the online teaching course for the affected students. "We constantly hear that children are the future of our country. Yet children, especially from among the marginalised community, face setbacks more than others, whenever a crisis erupts. The scene was equally terrifying during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. With their schools closed, they lacked access to the learning mechanism. With this in mind, we provided them with a creative outlet", she said.

Records show that this program was started with only 4 students on 14th April and grew to include 12 students in a month. Today, five dozen students are attending online classes on a regular basis. Looking at the success, Art of Living, Jharkhand is expanding the initiative further to all students studying in other SSGM schools in the state. Shikhar and Tanvi said, “Constant interaction was successful not only in meaningfully engaging these students, but it also helped us keep tabs on their mental health and raise awareness about the ongoing pandemic.” Ayush agrees and adds, “At one instance, the online interaction helped us reach out to the nearby villages to provide dry rations for a period of 14 days and co-ordinate distribution of free masks to the community adjoining the school. Something like this was possible only because the community now has access to the online channel”

SSGM is working to expand the classes to more than 100 students from villages in and around Ranchi. They are backed by 25 volunteers from both organisations SSGM and World Youth Council. If you are interested to contribute your time as a volunteer, you can email them at Indira.ashray@gmail.com or apply to volunteer online at www.worldyouthcouncil.org/teach-from-home.

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