With schools shuttered by the pandemic for almost two years, millions of children across India lost precious learning and growth opportunities. Access to resources is (and has always been) a challenge in marginalized areas of the country and the pandemic exposed these faultlines in a glaring manner. Asha for Education operates in some of the most marginalized areas of the society and providing access to educational resources has always been a priority in all Asha supported schools. However, with a large demographic to support this hasn’t been easy even in normal times. Computer labs that have a ratio of 1 computer for every 5 students or vocational centers that teach sewing to girls having 4-5 sewing machines per 25-30 girls is how Asha Samajik Vidyalaya has been operating over the last few years. The focus had always been to ensure children from neighboring villages come to the school and make use of these resources however scarce they might be because in the villages there are none.
The pandemic turned this model upside down where students lost access to classroom teaching, computer labs, sewing machines, and other learning materials that Asha Samijik Vidyalaya had so hard to acquire. One saving grace was the school library which was relatively well stocked and the school allowed students to check out books to take home to study. The teachers monitored the students learning remotely over the phone or WhatsApp. The school library was opened for access by students of other schools and drop-out students as well. The goal was to ensure that a child of a schoolgoing age in any of the nearby villages gets access to learning materials of some sort. With unprecedented times upon us, the staff at ASV Rajatalab, Varanasi wanted to ensure we do not fail the students who would have ended up becoming the ‘lost generation’. The library remained open on weekends through the school closures as no in-classroom teaching could be conducted during the lockdowns.
The library proved to be a savior in remote learning and helping students provide access to learning materials. The higher usage meant books are now getting worn out and now need to be replaced. Having a well-stocked library also allows Asha for Education to provide resources to those who lack them and can’t afford them. A good library promotes a culture of curiosity and learning wherever it is established and operated well and this library at Asha Samijik Vidyalaya in Rajatalab Tehsil just outside of Varanasi city is no exception.