Five-year-old Hrithik lives in a remote village in the West Singhbum district where his family struggles to make ends meet, especially during the severe financial crisis caused by COVID-19. Even in the best of times, the boy’s parents are often engaged in searching for livelihood opportunities and are, thus, notable to devote much time to him.
Normally, Hrithik goes to the village Anganwadi as his mother, Dasmati Devi, hopes to provide him with a good education. She also sometimes tried to teach the boy herself, but that was difficult given her limited abilities. Although his parents know how essential education is to Hrithik’s development and how it can help in carving out a better future for him, they felt helpless given their situation.
Their worries only worsened when the COVID-19 lockdown kicked in, further distancing children from education. But a silver-lining emerged when the family met Save the Children’s Academic Support Fellow (ASF), one of a group of graduates trained by Save the Children on our Emergent Literacy and Math (ELM) Toolkit so they can provide mentorship to young students. At the same time, the family also got to know our local Anganwadi Worker (Sevika Didi) who provided the family with early learning materials and support for home-based learning during the lockdown. The duo also counseled the parents and their son and started hand-holding Hrithik to help him learn.
Save the Children’s home-based ELM toolkit is designed to help young girls and boys learn within their home environment, often by making use of common household items. It’s a play-based method of learning through which children gain knowledge in a fun way. The technique is especially important now given closure of Anganwadi Centers during the lockdown. Despite restrictions posed by the pandemic, our ASF and Anganwadi Workers – and the early learning materials they provide – are helping mothers like Dasmati teach at home. This learning grabs children’s attention and keeps them happy. They are eager to learn and often ask their parents to teach them new things and concepts.
"The learning materials and support given by Sevika Didi and the ASF changed our perception towards our children’s education,” remarked a joyful Dasmati Devi when she found her son could count correctly and remember most of the poems he was taught. “I am so happy that my son’s learning is not derailed during the lockdown!”
Save the Children's support has not only enabled Hrithik to improve his early learning, but has also empowered Dasmati Devi, who never had access to education herself, to act as his teacher. She is now able to speak with confidence in front of others. More important, her illiteracy is no longer a challenge to helping her child learn since she now knows how to easily initiate early childhood education even while she is doing domestic work.
Dasmati Devi makes it clear that she is deeply grateful to Save the Children for sharing teaching techniques that have enabled her to help Hrithik not only learn, but enjoy learning. Indeed, the 5-year-old has proven himself an avid learner. He sits patiently, listens to stories with rapt attention, and often tries to recount his own stories with expression.
“Earlier, we did not realize that a child requires special attention from parents at home,” remarks Hrithik’s dad. “The technique taught to us has changed our way of thinking. It has also brought about changes among our other children, who are now also showing enthusiasm towards learning through the play method.”
Hrithik is one of the thousands of children in India who – thanks to the support of RIST and other donors – Save the Children is able to provide better opportunities and a brighter future.