The bustling campus of the Viveka Tribal Center for Learning went abruptly silent when the COVID lockdown began in March. All 400+ students from this residential school in the middle of the forest were sent home to their villages. Weeks turned into months. Students began working outside the home to help their families. The teachers were helpless.
Given the virtually non-existent connectivity in this forested area online classes were not an option. Would the hard-earned gains of the last few years be lost?
As the lockdown started easing, teachers began to create Community Learning Centers in villages. They visited villages on a regular schedule, conducting educational activities for the children in a common area. They worked with the approval of the villagers, and when anxious village elders walled off their villages and asked them to stop for a while, they did so. Over time the teachers persevered, following social distancing and mask guidelines, and are now able to reach 80% of all children.
- Teachers visit villages twice a week. Children eagerly await the sessions.
- This format has given teachers an opportunity to focus on content not directly in the textbook. Arts and crafts activities for young children, field trips around the village, observational and data oriented skills (for example, correlate weather with electric meter readings), and more.
- Books from the Mobile Library were placed in student homes, each such ‘mini-library’ serving 60-70 homes in the area. Children, much to their excitement, are the librarians.