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Seekh programme of UNICEF ensures the continued learning of students, despite the school closure : Job Zachariah, Chief of UNICEF, Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh | May | 26, 2020 :: Job Zachariah, Chief of UNICEF in Chhattisgarh, in an interaction with our news editor, spoke about the innovative “Seekh” programme, designed and launched by UNICEF for ensuring learning of primary school children at home in a fun-filled way.
He says that disruption of learning due to school closure could affect the learning outcome of children and it could even lead to the drop-out of students, when school reopens. “Seekh programme of UNICEF ensures the continued learning of students, despite the school closure” he says.


1.Q: Why did UNICEF design and launch “Seekh” programme for students?
A: Most schools in the country were closed from 16 March 2020, due to COVID 19 and the lockdown.
This disrupted the learning of students. Global evidence shows that it is not easy to re-start learning of children, once it is dis-continued. Besides, learning outcome of students would dip, after school closure. UNICEF felt that the learning of children could continue at home in a joyful way, with the involvement of parents. Hence, we launched the “Seekh” programme.

2. Q: What does Seekh programme consist of?
A: Seekh consists of a set of class-specific and subject-specific activities prepared in short audios and videos, based on expected learning outcomes.
These audios and videos are in the subjects like Hindi language, maths and science.
The class-specific activities include fun-filled indoor games and riddles, telling stories, reading out a passage, writing simple paragraphs, counting, as well as some physical activity. So far, 60 videos and audios of activities have been prepared and posted.
After each audio and video lesson, students have to do certain follow-up activities, as suggested.

3. Q: What are the unique features of Seekh?
A: Seekh is different from the usual on-line portals on education in the country for distance learning of students. Seekh programme, has three distinct features.
First, learning of students is ensured through fun-filled games and interesting activities.
Children learn basic concepts, without even realizing that they are learning. Second, Seekh promotes learning of students along with parents and grandparents.
All the activities are to be done by students along with parents and grandparents.
Third, local schoolteacher and community volunteer provide support to children and parents on the lessons and activities, by phone or social media platforms.

4. Q: How does Seekh lessons reach parents and children
A: The videos and audios of Seekh programme, with class-specific activities, are placed in the YouTube page- ‘CG Seekh’.
These are then shared by teachers with the parents by digital platforms such as WhatsApp groups, anchored by the teacher at the school or community level.
Alternatively, parents and students can directly access the videos and audios of lessons in the YouTube page.

5. Most of the parents are illiterate or first-generation learners in rural India. Will they be able to support children?
A: Even if parents are not educated in the formal way, we believe that parents can support and facilitate learning of children at home.
We want to promote non-formal ways of learning at home and Seekh programme considers parents and grandparents as great resources that can contribute to children’s development.
We have very positive response from parents in all districts. Parental and community support for learning of children, is an idea whose time has come.
In Nigerian Igbo culture, there is a saying which goes like this: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Ditto for education.

6. Q: How will the Seekh videos and audios reach poor households in rural areas, who do not have smart phones or internet connectivity?
A: In states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, poor households may not have internet connectivity or smart phones to access the digital content.
To overcome this digital divide, Seekh mobilizes community volunteers, often young persons, who spend 1-2 hours with the children in their neighborhood, supporting them to learn. In some places, children who do not have access to digital devices are invited by their friends to learn together, keeping all precautions like wearing masks, physical distancing and washing hands with soap.

7. Q: Tell us more about the concept of Seekh mitras or community volunteers
A: Seekh mitras are community volunteers who would support parents and children for learning at home.
More than 4,000 Seekh mitras have been identified in Dhamtari and Raigarh districts in Chhattisgarh.
These Seekh mitras will be trained by UNICEF and provided with ‘pitaara’ containing learning activities and reference material.
Through the Seekh mitras, UNICEF hope to reach the last mile, those children in the poor and vulnerable households.

8.Q: Is this programme meant only for students in Chhattisgarh?
A: The learning material of Seekh is useful for all primary school students in India.
In the first phase, UNICEF has launched the programme in four districts of Chhattisgarh – Sukma, Dhamtari, Raigarh and Jashpur- with the support of district administration.

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