Education is the only proven path out of poverty. Unfortunately, a good education is not always accessible to the underprivileged in India. Sitare Foundation believes in providing access to high-quality education to the most talented underprivileged children in our society. We partner with some of the best private schools in a city and provide our selected students with the education otherwise available to only the elite few. We currently have over four hundred students enrolled in five partner schools across five cities in India: Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bhopal, Indore, Ajmer.
Our Sitare (‘stars’ in Hindi) were making strong progress in their respective schools when suddenly the world was hit by the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. Everything ceased. India imposed one of the biggest lockdowns in history, which impacted the underprivileged population disproportionately. It is estimated that 500,000-600,000 migrant workers had to walk back hundreds of kilometers to their villages in the absence of any transportation. Families of our students are also severely impacted by the pandemic. They faced food insecurity, worries about their health and safety, and of course, a huge disruption in their children’s education.
As the pandemic hit, we at Sitare decided to tackle this pandemic proactively. Our initial goal was to establish contact, by all means possible, with our students and their families. As you can see in Fig. 1, we were able to contact most of the students across all cities. Our city coordinators were doing weekly check-ins to ensure that our students and their families have food-safety, necessary health information, and financial security. In our weekly check-ins with the families, we found a few families that were dealing with food insecurity. We collaborated with organizations like The Robin Hood Army, Akshay Patra Foundation, local government bodies like Nagar Nigam, and other individual volunteers for arranging adequate food for the families. We are incredibly grateful to these organizations and volunteers for providing these families with food in these dire times.
Our students are also at high risk of contracting the virus since most of them live in densely packed communities. Very early on, our fear came true when one of our students, Vaishnavi, tested positive for Covid-19. She and her family, along with support from our city coordinator, got the necessary medical attention, and to our relief recovered fully from the infection.
As the weeks progressed, alongside ensuring food safety, our team quickly turned into a news and information conduit for our families, providing them with the latest outbreak information and locations of nearby hospitals and testing centers. Once the basic necessities were met, we turned our focus to education. Immediately, we ran into the digital divide that our underprivileged students face due to a lack of access to technology (in general) and educational technology (in particular). We will dive deeper into this in a subsequent blog post.
How has this pandemic impacted the education sector? What actions can we take for the education of the underprivileged children who don’t have proper access to technology? Information about such questions is rather sparse. We, at Sitare, hope to shine some light on this subject in the coming months. In our efforts to counter the damage of this pandemic, we are collecting a great deal of data on the impact of this pandemic on the underprivileged children. Thus, we are starting a series of articles that will present our data, discuss the challenges our children are facing, and add our insights. If you have any questions or suggestions, please drop us an email at [email protected].