Liver Foundation, West Bengal

aspire to take science to society

Para Lekha

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted every aspects of human life like health, economy and overall education systems around the world. In India, over 1.5 million schools closed down due to the pandemic, some 278 million children from age 3 years to 18 years are directly affected due to prolonged school closure. In West Bengal the government schools are closed from February 2020, which directly affected cognitive, emotional and social well-being of children. With their schools closed and their parents unable or unequipped to teach them, children in rural India have found themselves in a precarious position, deprived of access to both education and adequate nutrition. Many of them have fallen out of the habit of attending school, forgotten their newly learned reading and writing abilities or have simply dropped out to join their parents in the informal workforce.

To address this set back Liver Foundation, West Bengal (LFWB) started ‘Para-Lekha’, a primary education initiative spearheaded by Self – Help groups in four districts of West Bengal viz. Birbhum, Bankura, Howrah and Purulia From the field exposure Liver Foundation had got a real picture that hit of Covid 19 pandemic is also long lasting in the field of education like other spheres in human life. If the school open in near future, probably the school system will not be able to bridge the learning loss of the children within school hours with a structured curriculum. So LFWB focuses on the skill building of mothers and Self-Help Group Members (SHG) so that they can effectively continue the study of their wards in the homes.

The objectives of Para- Lekha are

·        to support the socially, economically marginalized group of children through their mothers

·        to create and nourish informal spaces for learning and play for primary children as a supplement to schools with trained Self-Help Group (SHG) members or mothers.

·        to empower the mothers and SHG members with the necessary skills to effectively continue their children’s education in their homes.

·        to build basic foundational skill of children in reading , writing and numeracy

According to Dr. Abhijit Chowdhury (Chief Mentor,LFWB), “The need of the hour is to expand the concept of education beyond the confines of the classroom.” Self Help Groups, as organizations geared towards the realization of social and economic independence of women, are the perfect platforms to lead such an initiative. We believe that it is possible to reorient them towards socially necessary tasks: “If their new found confidence can be utilized to combat pressing social problems such as this, not only will SHG members experience greater self-reliance and self-respect but it will also provide new hope for children who have been deprived of access to education. To achieve these goals LFWB collaborates with leading NGOs who had long experience in education field like Pratham Education Foundation (Pratham) and Vikramshila Education Resource Society (VERS). In Nagari GP of Birbhum Pratham trained 62 SHG members and mothers from 22 villages, who in turn have set up 34 centres with 799 children from grade 1-5. Language and math packages are provided by Liver Foundation to the centre for development of basic literacy and numeracy of the children. After receiving training mothers/ SHG members conducted baseline testing for children, based on which children are taught by them with the materials provided.

In Rawtora GP of Bankura a tripartite work is going on between Liver Foundation, VERS and Pradaan. VERS is providing basic support in the 31 centres, where 58 SHG members are working with 706 children on basic literacy, who will be formally trained from 28th to 30th October 2021. On the other hand Pradaan is supporting the livelihood of the SHG members. Along with this Liver Foundation is also supporting the nutritional needs of children in the area.

In Bagnan VERS also trained 28 SHG members for 2 days who worked for 2 months with 395 students in their 15 centres to achieve basic literacy and numeracy.