April 2021 saw the start of an all-India surge in Covid-19 infections owing to a devastating and rapidly spreading second wave. The surge is different from last year’s peak in many ways. The scale of the catastrophe, in the form of infections, deaths, and loss has surpassed what we saw in the first wave. Needless to say, every individual and family in the country is coping with anxiety, fear, and helplessness.
Pratham has been working extensively over the past year to contain the impact of school closures and disrupted lives by bringing engaging activities and new learning opportunities to children and youth.
Our 2020 campaign was called “Karona Thodi Masti Thodi Padhai”. For the past year, we have worked effectively to reach children, families and communities; by combining our pre-existing community structures with our digital resources. Messages were sent via phone (SMS and WhatsApp), and phone calls were made to individuals and groups for feedback and follow up. Using digital technologies – old and new, over the last twelve months, we were able to build a robust network of participants and learners across more than 10,000 rural and urban communities and 600 partner organizations. Fourteen state governments used our digital content in different ways.
Our vocational training activities pivoted from in-person training models to remote and hybrid strategies, ensuring that youth continue to learn and grow even in the face of the pandemic. Through a variety of platforms and activities, we reached out to youth who were just entering the workforce, as well as, to experienced workers in need of upskilling or certification. Our “Dekho-Seekho-Parkho” training model not only utilized existing communication platforms such as YouTube, WhatsApp, and Facebook Workplace to engage with the learners, but also allowed for “human contact” and practical experience, to help ease learners into this new method of skilling. Over the past twelve months, we trained 35,000+ youth through virtual courses and 20,000+ through practical sessions. Of those trained over 12,000 were placed in jobs.
Through this period, we also focused on building the capacity of our teams to operate in this “new normal” and have learned a lot along the way to inform the strands of response to the current crisis.
Pratham’s response to the current crisis can be seen as three strategies:
Immediate relief: Supporting efforts of partners for deploying equipment
Through the support of the Pratham community across the globe, funds are being raised to support the efforts of partners like Piramal Swasthya, Project Mumbai and others to deploy oxygen concentrators as well as other medical supplies to hospitals and care facilities across the country. Volunteers from our teams across the country are helping to identify areas of need, and support information collection to support healthcare partners.
Current to Medium term: Using Pratham spaces (vocational skilling centres) effectively
With in-person activities on hold across all our vocational training centres, we will be leveraging these spaces across more than 8 states in India to be converted to isolation, care or vaccination facilities to be managed by government authorities. In addition, we aim to reach out to communities in catchment areas and partners to support on-ground health awareness activities and enable access to equipment and supplies.
Ongoing and long run: Equipping Pratham communities - Karona Apni Suraksha campaign
To beat the pandemic, we must make a concerted effort to beat the infodemic as well. As the pandemic affects communities across rural and urban parts of the country, it is crucial that people have access to consolidated, verified and contextualized information, which they can utilize to make better decisions and raise awareness in their surroundings. The Karona Apni Suraksha campaign is Pratham’s communication initiative to reach the last mile and enable communities and families to cope better with the pandemic. More than 20,000 communities with a Pratham presence are being targeted for this campaign. The resources are also available to others freely.
Karona Apni Suraksha is focused on ensuring delivery of accurate, essential and verified information related to COVID-19 in different regional languages in a form that is easy to understand and use. For this, multiple channels (SMS, WhatsApp, Zoom, YouTube and phone calls) and two-way communication are being used. This is important keeping in mind that most of these communities are low-tech and under-resourced, where availability of such crucial information is scarce. The objectives of this campaign include (a) ensuring information reaches the last mile and (b) establishing an open and two-way channel of communication so that information can be discussed, and questions clarified. Content is being curated and developed with partners and includes health-awareness information, busting myths around the virus, its causes and consequences, and details of why vaccination is essential and dealing with misconceptions about vaccination. Wherever possible, activities to engage children are also being planned.
In the coming months, we hope to see health content and awareness as a backbone of all Pratham programs, and will share more as we evolve our response strategy.