Foundational Learning in Chennai Hubs

For the past two years, children in our communities have been attending online school. With hindrances like lack of phone or internet, they have struggled to attend classes regularly.

In Chennai, Prakash A, CBO & AHT Programme Coordinator, heads the after-school programme (ASP) in Kannagi Nagar, Kalyanapuram, Basin Bridge and Kannigapuram. When asked how childrens’ education has been affected during the pandemic, he says, “The ground reality is – not attending school has majorly affected the behaviour of children, especially because their routine and a disciplined schedule has changed. In the post-pandemic days, children are more casual about school or following a schedule for learning. Those that were able to do basic reading are now unable to even read a sentence or write. The major problem that has circled back yet again is the lack of foundational knowledge.”

In our ASP, we provide holistic education for children from 2nd – 10th grade. To address this issue, the team used a tool called ACER and assessed children across all hubs. This helped them understand each child’s learning level. Prakash says, “We found that majority of children were still in a beginner level. They were reading without truly understanding what they were learning. It is ingrained in them to study by heart that they have not developed the art of understanding what they learn.”

With a challenge as difficult as this, our team put together a specialised plan to tackle this issue. They began a 3-month retrieval class that will focus on the foundational learning. Prakash says, “The pandemic has caused children to lose their spark for learning. So in our retrieval classes, we introduced learn by play method to help them ease into their learning habits. For the first month, we focused on teaching multiplication tables, numbers, English and Tamil alphabets. Post 30 days, we conducted an assessment to check their learning progress and we were glad to see that majority of the students were able to understand and learn well. This proved that children ARE able to learn, provided the right tutoring and method of learning. Our goal is that by the end of the retrieval classes, they will be able to read and write. If they can do that, then they will easily study on their own. The foundation is important.”

Another issue children face is studying at home because they do not have the suitable environment for this. Prakash says, “We wanted children to also receive the support at home to study well. So we conducted focus group discussions with children and their parents separately to understand their needs and challenges. Through this, we were able to identify that there was a strain in the parent-child relationships which in turn affected the child’s desire to learn. Children were disappointed that parents were not giving them enough attention or affection while the parents were struggling through the pandemic to put food on the table. For parents, children took a back seat as they operated on survival mode through the pandemic. How can we mend these relationships? We had to understand both sides and offer solutions.”

Our staff conducted a parents’ meet where the parents were presented with this harsh reality of the relationship with their child. A brief session was conducted to help them understand the needs of their child and the importance of meeting those needs. Prakash says, “We hope that we will be able to lay a solid foundation for these children and provide a positive environment for learning in collaboration with their parents. It is not going to be easy but it will be worth it.”

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