IIFL Foundation, which runs one of India’s largest girl child education programs – Sakhiyon Ki Baadi (SKB) – across 1200 remote schools in Rajasthan, has been able leverage digital medium to impart seamless education to over 36,000 girls making it one of the largest such program anywhere in the world.
SKB schools are dedicated to educating out-of-school girl children of primarily underprivileged tribal communities, where girl child literacy is in single digits and worse than many sub-Saharan countries. IIFL Foundation’s Sakhiyon Ki Baadi program brought these out-of-school girls to education fold in remote inaccessible areas mostly making them the first female members or in many case the first member to receive formal education.
The Covid-19 pandemic which started a year ago disrupted the education system of 1200 SKB schools managed by 1200 teachers or Dakshas. Lockdown meant field staff could not visit the centers or conduct home visits and meetings with the community members.
There was of discontinuation of education for girls who with so much difficulty got into schools in the first place. There were reports of girl child marriage in many communities across India.
IIFL Foundation led by Ms. Madhu Jain decided to ensure that the education continues using digital mode so that 2020 doesn’t become a zero year and many dreams don’t get shattered.
Ms. Madhu Jain, Director, IIFL Foundation said, “During the pandemic, IIFL Foundation focused on turning challenges into opportunities. We revisited our vision and stayed true to our values of integrity and discipline. Lockdown provided us the opportunity to equip 500+ Dakshas with the knowledge to use a mobile phone, engage on online platforms, upgrade their English language skills and develop an understanding of basic financial concepts. This wisdom was then passed on to the students enrolled at the SKB centers through continuous online sessions.”
Most of the Dakshas belong to tribal hamlets and did not have access to or knowledge of technology prior to the pandemic. One by one, the team at IIFL Foundation successfully removed several obstacles such as absence of gadget (Android phone), poor network connectivity and lack of technical knowledge among Dakshas. This was achieved by working closely with the community members. For instance, a community member lent his android phone to the teacher so she could attend training, another community member educated them over usage of mobile app for attending online trainings and so on. The Dakshas were enthused to complete these trainings and took measures such as climbing a hill near their house to address network issues, attending sessions in groups to help each other, and so on.
To begin with, the Dakshas were brought together over WhatsApp Groups, establishing a two-way communication channel. Thereafter, they were taught to interact and participate in online trainings over virtual platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet.
With the newly built digital connect, video tutorials and PDF documents were prepared to facilitate the teaching activities. These study materials were shared over WhatsApp with the teachers. Live training sessions were conducted over Zoom and Google Meet with the students.
Through this robust system of remote working, the training team was able to co-ordinate with the on-field team. Similarly, Block Managers, District Managers, Trainers and Program Managers were connected remotely through several online platforms.
Working remotely allowed the team to define new objectives of the program (building awareness around the pandemic, ensuring continuity of the literacy programs) and staying connected.
Thus, it was ensured that the learning never stopped at the SKBs.