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  • Vignesh Prasad

Coping with the Covid 19 Pandemic

Author: Vignesh Prasad

Through the last two years, I’ve tried to share some snippets of my observations and learnings at the Vismaya Kalike center in Anjanapura. The last time I shared one of these observations was four months ago before Bangalore went into lockdown. We haven’t been able to open the center for the last four months and it has made me realise just how much the center has been a space of joy and learning for not just the children but for me as well. These months have been incredibly challenging and have really taken a toll but it has taught me a lot. Below are some of the things that have really worked for us and helped us cope with this covid pandemic.

“The learning need not stop - Be creative”

At the start of the pandemic we had this mindset that this will pass soon and we’ll be back to our center within a few weeks. Today we know that we are seeing a “new normal” and even if we go back to facilitating soon, things may not quite be the same for sometime to come. We recognised that though we aren’t able to meet the children at the center, the learning does not necessarily have to stop and we have tried to find ways to engage with the children

For children with an internet connection, we communicate math sums and spelling dictation via WhatsApp voice messages. For other children we have set up weekly group conference calls. During our conference calls we play games like word building and share stories with each other. While only a small portion of the children are able to participate, they all look forward to having something to do. The impact on children is often forgotten during this pandemic and simply having a conversation with them can go a long way.

“Don’t neglect your personal growth”

At ViKa we’ve always spoken about this idea of praxis i.e. having a combination of theory and practical experience when learning has happened. This pandemic has really taught us how important the practical experience component of the learning is. It has often been rather frustrating to read something and not really have an opportunity to apply the learnings. However, what we’ve also realised is that our learning and growth must continue.

While we may not be able to apply all our learnings, we have used this time to read more and reflect on our past experiences as a team. We have tried to apply some of the ideas that we’ve read about in phone interactions with children. This newsletter would not have come together if we did not commit to putting down our thoughts and sharing our learnings.

“Listen and support one another”

This pandemic has been a challenging time for the entire team and it has only been possible to cope with this by supporting one another. With more time on our hands, we decided to come together on a ninety minute conference call every week. During this call we share how we have been feeling, what we have been upto and make it a point to really listen to everyone. This pandemic has really brought us much closer together and we have all learnt a lot about each other.

“Children will learn given the right environment”

One of our fundamental assumptions in our ViKa center has been to believe in the children to define their own learning journeys. We make sure that the child has all the agency at the center and have found that children learn best when they have an intrinsic motivation to learn. With remote learning it is impossible to monitor and force children to learn something and it is only when a child is truly interested will they learn.

During this pandemic we have had some remarkable instances of children demonstrating just this. For example some young learners convinced their parents to give them their phones so they can get some learning material from us over WhatsApp. With the older learners when playing word building on the phone, we naturally stumbled on the process of each individual spelling the word they said, building crucial language skills. We have to prepare our children for a future where they can define their learning journeys and this pandemic is a useful reminder of that.

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