Mobile Schools To Bridge Learning Gap In Tribal Communities Of Odisha

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Bhubaneswar: An innovative initiative of mobile schools in a van for young children from Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) communities was launched in Bhubaneswar recently. This Initiative called ‘School Sanjog Programme’ is a joint collaboration between BGVS, Sikhyasandhan in partnership with UNICEF and State ST & SC Dev. Department.

The initiative Programme focuses on continued learning among children in PVTG (Poor and Vulnerable Tribal Groups) areas, as an alternative to address the disruption in education, among children of classes I-V, during this phase of school closure due to Covid-19 Pandemic.

The Pandemic induced compulsion of classroom learning being shifted to Online learning, has denied education to many children in PVTG areas, due to lack of access to smartphones or internet connection, through the Mobile School Initiative it is expected that reaching out to children in PVTG communities would not only help maintain continuity in learning but can also address prevention of school dropout. The school Sanjog Programme (“Mobile school in a Van/Bike”) launch event announced the beginning of running the customized ‘Mobile School in a Van’ is designed to be visually appealing and are equipped with child-friendly learning material such as audio-visual equipment, Books for children from Classes I-V, Science Kits, Sports kits, and Hygiene education Kits to ensure children engage in joyful and memorable learning activities, run in the presence of trained volunteers in an open space, following all State Government specified Covid safety protocols and guidelines. Each session will last for two hours.

School Sanjog Programme ‘MOBILE SCHOOL IN A VAN’ is targeted to reach out to approximately 40,000 children of Classes I-V of PVTG communities in ten districts of Odisha (Keonjhar, Jajpur, Mayurbhanj, Angul, Gajapati, Rayagada, Kalahandi, Malkangiri, Kandhamal, and Ganjam) and around 1000 villages.

The launch event was attended by Sri Jagannath Saraka, Minister, ST & SC Dev., Ms. Ranjana Chopra, Principal Secretary, ST&SC Dev. Deptt. and senior officials from UNICEF State Office, Prof. (Dr.) A. B. Ota, Director-cum-Spl. Secretary, SCSTRTI. Addressing the participants, on this occasion Minister Sri Saraka expressed “Education as a powerful tool,, has always been a challenge for children in PVTG communities, the situation has worsened due to closure of schools on account of the pandemic. Thus, the School Sanjog Programme will make a significant move towards reaching out to the children in PVTG areas, who are missing out on learning”.

On this occasion, Principal Secretary Smt. Chopra in her address expressed, “This entire School Sanjog Programme is an innovative endeavour in the direction of reaching out to children in vulnerable areas and facilitating learning through the Mobile school in a van concept for PVTG children. An attempt to ensure continued learning will be a significant move in helping children return to schools after they reopen”. This innovative approach is timely and much needed in this hour of education emergency.

Prof. (Dr.) Ota said that such an innovative approach towards reaching the unreached i.e. children in PVTG areas is relevant and is the need of the hour, as many children in remote areas do not have access to learning despite various initiatives taken up by the State Government.

Monica O Neilson, Chief, UNICEF said “the School Sanjog Programme seeks to create parental awareness of approximately 60,000 community members on parenting to improve health, education, personal hygiene, and wellbeing status of children including a reduction in child marriage. It is expected to successfully engage students to attain the foundational literacy and numeracy competencies as well as build stronger socio-emotional learning.

Ms. Lalita Patnaik, Education Specialist, UNICEF emphasized that this programme is an innovative and integrated approach towards continued learning and facilitates the emotional well-being of children. This programme is expected to greatly benefit children, provide a memorable learning experience, and open up new ways to learning through a visually appealing and equipped mobile school in a van.”

This will be implemented by field partners like BGVS (Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti) and Siksha Sandhan, SOVA, Jagruti and Parivartan, Antordaya, Sevajagat. The programme seeks to target approximately 40,000 children of Classes I-V in 10 districts of Odisha namely Rayagada, Keonjhar, Jajpur, Mayurbhanj, Angul, Gajapati, Ganjam, Malkangiri, Kalahandi, and Kandhamal. This innovative approach could be scaled up in OTELP and department in the future based on success.

The launch event concluded with flagging off ‘School in a Van” by Minister Sri Saraka, senior officials from ST&SC Dev. Department, and UNICEF.

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