Catch-Up Campaign: Rebuilding a Better Future for School Children

Rakshit Debbarma

The COVID – 19 crisis has brought unprecedented challenges across the country especially on children’s education. The worst affected among the students were children from rural areas as they did not have access to modern devices and gadgets’ connectivity. While many in urban areas have opted for digital learning and found it was the only solution to connect with schools and teachers for formal education.

Many pre-schools and schools across the country have been closed for more than a year. Schools have attempted to provide learning materials at their end and many parents have tried their best for their children in the best way they could. Yet, there is still widespread skepticism that all these efforts are ineffective and significantly uneven. However, across the country schools, families, and policymakers are worried about the impact of the pandemic on children’s socio-educational development and the extent of learning loss that may have occurred.

During the COVID – 19 crisis, for example, children who have enrolled for the first time have never been to school and possibly have not had much exposure to pre-school education either. Data from the officials indicate that more than half of all children in Grade VI could not read a Grade II level text or perform simple subtraction especially in rural areas.

Keeping in mind such a prevailing situation the Government of Tripura feels it is high time for learning to begin again – and importantly, in a fun and engaging way and this is how a programme called “Catch-Up Campaign” under Nutan Disha on 22 nd August 2021 has been launched. The campaign was designed and planned by the Directorate of Elementary Education keeping in mind the children who are currently studying in Class III to VIII in Government aided schools. Its aim was to help children catch up in language and math foundational skills with special emphasis on reading abilities and mathematics operations.

The catch-up campaign is encouraging parents and family members as well as others in the community to join children, engage with them in interesting and fun activities, and help children build/re-build foundational reading and math skills.

In order to make it a success the Inspectorate of Schools under Santirbazar Sub-Division has planned out to support children’s learning through home connect system, like phone messages are directly being sent to families, ongoing follow-up and feedback conversations with each family are being done.

Teachers are interacting with small groups of children for 1-1.5 hours a day doing simple instructional activities and demonstration through reading kits etc. Panchayats, local Anganwadi workers are also being informed about the campaign through Gram Sabha.

Pranab Sarkar, Inspector of Schools said, “The Catch-up Campaign will need to be broader and need to last a lot longer at least one year”. He also says that he always wanted to contribute to the society and happy to be part of the Catch-Up Campaign.

Anup Tripura, a student of Class III of Shanti Colony SB School, whose parents are daily wage earners, says, I aspire to be a police officer when I grow up”. Anup Tripura is excelling in studies and doing very well under Catch-up Campaign. It has shown us that with the right opportunity and support, a child can do wonders, in just a short span of time.

Janardhan Nama, a Key Resource Person of Catch–Up Campaign was sharing his experience saying that he was very fortunate to be part of the campaign. “Children looked very excited and surrounded us and were eager to see the reading kit we brought for them” Says, Janardhan Nama.

“I think such kind of campaign should continue even after its stipulated tenure as it has opened multiple channels of learning, including reaching marginalized students,” says Mamati Shil, a mother of a beneficiary of Catch-Up Campaign from K. C. Para of Santirbazar.

To monitor and evaluate the campaign continuously the Inspectorate of Schools under the leadership of Pranab Sarkar frequently visits schools that come under the Catch-Up Campaign to enquire about the improvement and progress of the students.

According to Santirbazar Inspectorate of Schools, 14 schools fall under the Non-Reader Free category out of 61 schools in Santirbazar Sub-Division.

Therefore, when education resumes, it is essential to help learners catch up. Learners must be helped to recover lost learning and return to the appropriate place in the curriculum and to ensure that no learner is left behind.

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