In the pre-COVID scenario, we worked with India’s public-funded schools to avail an inclusive sports education to every child which is holistic and lie-skill focussed. We have been firmly on our track by working with 10,000 children around the capital city Delhi. Most of our students come from the lower economic strata of society. Indian public school system serves mostly the students who come from underprivileged backgrounds.
Our objective in the pre-COVID scenario was to ensure that every child, irrespective of their gender, physical attributes receive 60 hours of physical education, we have been working with teachers, teacher educators, parents, and students to achieve the goal.
The nationwide lockdown was enforced in India on the 24th of March 2020. Within the first couple of weeks it became clear to us that we are in it for the long haul.
Most of the students that we serve come from underprivileged family backgrounds. Their parents earn their livelihood either as daily wage earners, domestic help, or by running micro-businesses. The prolonged lock-down was a heavy blow on them economically. The families consisting of 7 to 8 people often, mostly live in very cramped conditions, a one-room or two-room flats. Due to the lockdown, most of the time everyone was forced to stay inside. With added economic stress and no social interactions, families often faced a very difficult time.
The children are facing a difficult time at home. With no school, no peer interaction, the childhood went out of the window on a day’s notice. Children were often exposed to extremely stressful situations at home, and parents also had little to no clue regarding how to protect the children.
In this situation, our first response was to provide material relief to the families who are facing difficulties to put food on the table. But our second response was to directly contact the parents to ensure 10 minutes of joy. We gathered information and noted that 55% of the parents own a smartphone and have a basic internet plan. We started making instructional videos for the children, each video consisted of fun activities that needed parents and children to work together. We have started sharing the videos through different whatsApp groups,(which we created taking school leaders in the loop). We have reached out to 5000 students so far, every day for the last 7 weeks. Each week we receive close to 1000 video responses, as we encourage parents to send the videos on the same social media platforms (WhatsApp).
In a nutshell:
We are providing students with physical activities by using popular social media platforms which brings the families closer, and creates an environment where the child can thrive.
Challenges are important- At the outset, this initiative was a success, but soon we started realizing the areas of improvement. Peer interaction is an essential element of learning. And that was missing on our part. We tried to resolve it by adding fitness challenges, fitness challenges were a runaway success.
The low bandwidth issue-We quickly understood that a lot of parents do not have adequate internet plans to watch the videos. We started using instructional GIFs to ensure that the instructional videos work even with low bandwidth devices.
Phone memory issue-We realized that often smartphone devices used by the parents do not have enough memory to download the videos. We started posting links of the video in the groups so that parents can watch those without downloading.
Familiar Face as an instructor- Parents, and students are far more welcoming of the videos where they personally know the instructor. Our coaches, who used to teach the children during the pre-COVID times, started making the instructional videos themselves. We got in touch with the teachers of the school and requested them to make the instructional videos.
Calls to parents: It is important to stay in touch with the parents. With so much going on in their own lives, it is often difficult for them to keep up with the need of their children.
Right now we have incorporated all this learning in our program.