STAYING IN TOUCH WITH YOUNG CHILDREN DURING COVID-19
The global pandemic has brought about big changes and disruptions in people’s lives, including those of our young children. To reduce some of the anxieties that this unprecedented crisis has brought with it, Pratham is reaching out to its little friends – children and parents in our early childhood programs. We find that even in a difficult time like this, everyone likes being connected and many are talking to us continuously even while stuck at home.
Here is a sneak peek into some of Pratham’s experiences and stories of staying in touch with children and families in our early childhood education programs.
MOTHERS, FAMILIES AND OUR CONNECTIONS
Parents and children are spending more time together in this lockdown than they used to when regular routines and daily schedules were in place. The lockdown time has been a unique opportunity for parents and children to establish strong bonds and help build developmental abilities through play and fun! To reach out to all our different communities in this time, Pratham is leveraging its extensive repository of stories, rhymes, activities, and games, which are reaching parents – through their mobile phones in the language of their choice. This content is accessible here.
Parents with smartphones can easily access such digital content, but it is equally important to engage parents who have basic phones. And so, in a matter of days, we developed SMS content across 8 different languages. These SMS (short messaging service) messages conveyed short and simple, yet effective messages such as a simple rhyme, an activity, or a story. Together, with the WhatsApp and SMS content, we began reaching out to families of the children that we have closely worked with over the years. Every day, one WhatsApp and one SMS message are being sent to these families.
Put different things in a bag. Close your eyes. Put your hand in the bag. Touch and say what you find.
The activities were designed in such way that parents would not have to step out of the house for any extra material. Household objects and materials, such as simple paper, buttons, boxes, cups, plates, fruits, and vegetables – serve as support to the parents as they engage with children in a variety of fun activities.
It quickly became clear that mothers were at the forefront of ensuring that the messages were being translated into activities with children. Fathers, older siblings and grandparents did not want to be left behind – and we saw them actively supporting children as they made butterflies from paper which could fly, learnt and recited songs and rhymes, and played with patterns and shapes.
Every day, parents enthusiastically share photos and videos of their children participating in a range of learning and play activities. To support the message sharing process, Pratham team members also began calling parents regularly (especially those parents who had simple phones) to help them understand the activities and processes with ease, and take feedback on how children were responding and whether the activity was simple enough to execute (here is a sample audio of our follow up conversations with parents). Now the activities have become a part of parents’ and children’s daily lives, and the photos and videos that are received everyday have become the high point for the Pratham team.
SHARING WITH GOVERNMENTS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
All our learning resources are available in 11 languages for free and can be accessed through the PraDigi App or by visiting our website prathamopenschool.org. Videos have been made available on Pratham Open School YouTube channels as well. Collaborations specific to the needs of the state government are also developing – for example, Pratham is sharing learning content through government teachers in the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Pratham is also sharing learning activities via radio in Nagpur district of Maharashtra.
The past few months have been a journey of immense learning for the Pratham team, as we discovered the power of technology to sustain play even in uncertain and locked down environments. It has added new and unique dimensions to how we think about our engagement with children and families. Here is hoping for many more adventures with our communities as we all try and get through these trying times together!