Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF), established in 1994, has been pursuing its mission to provide quality education to underprivileged girls and youth in urban and rural India since then. Using feminist-based pedagogy, gender sensitization techniques and adolescent empowerment discussions on social issues in the classrooms, SHEF works in the areas of education with a focus on girls’ education and empowerment, teacher training programs, gender-based sensitization workshops and training, formal and non-formal educational centers, and vocational training.
COVID-19 impact on India in general, and the thousands of students SHEF and Mona support has been significant. Students come from impoverished backgrounds where a family of 7 lives in a room and earns less than $2/day as domestic workers or daily laborers. With almost all daily laborers now unemployed SHEF is implementing plans to help those most affected. As of July 18, 2020, 127,296 meals were provided to 660 families; 4,100 families were connected to meals programs; 23,000 masks were made and distributed by the teachers. Most significantly, 4,000 students receive online education daily (currently 300,000 learners are using DSHOnline which Mona has funded for the past 10 years), and they have established domestic and sexual violence helplines as well as providing support to children with disabilities and their parents.
COVID-19 and one-room schools: In Lucknow, India, SHEF/Mona support 49 GyanSetus, one-room schools, in urban slums or remote villages where there is no running water, sanitation or schools, and often a family of 8-10 members live in one make-shift hut shared with their animals. Currently, there is a severe lack of awareness and means to fight this pandemic in these communities. To meet their needs, Mona is now raising funds to meet the following need to ensure the safety and the continuing education of these children:
- COVID-19 Prevention Kits – providing masks and bars of soap. SHEF has partnered with a local organization to produce a very cost effective three layered mask for $0.25/mask. They are also trying to procure hand washing sanitizing soap to distribute in these communities.
- 2,600 children x 8 masks @ $0.25 each = $5,200
- 2,600 children x 2 soaps @ $1 each = $5,200
- Providing food to 1,600 families. The team is in constant touch with the communities to understand the need for food and supplies in the community. So far, they have been able to leverage the network of other nonprofits and government agencies to deliver food to these areas, but now these streams of help are drying up. They have subsequently started grain distribution at a cost of $5.59 per family of four per month. Based on their assessment, 1,600 families will need help in the coming months.
- NEEDS: 1,600 families x dry ration kit with cooking oil @ $5.59 = $8,944
- Electronic device and access to internet: Equip the alumni students with either a cell phone or a computer and access to the internet so they can leverage SHEF’s online digital library, DSHOnline, and teach 5 to 10 children in their neighborhood. 80 Digital Enablers = $28,600
- 30 Laptops @ $420/each = $12,600
- 50 Smart Phones @ $150/each = $7,500
- 80 Internet Connections @ $100/yr = 8,000
- Training & Overhead @ $500/one-time = $500
COVID-19 and continuing education: Digital Study Hall Online (DSH), an initiative of SHEF was created 10 years ago with Mona Foundation’s support as a forward looking approach to overcoming the shortage of qualified teachers in poor and remote rural schools in India. DSH creates videos of the best teachers in actual classroom sessions teaching standard textbook materials, and then provides them free of charge to all teachers and students in poor public schools. Ongoing teacher training is offered to reinforce quality of teaching and learning.
With the country in lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and all schools closed, thousands of teachers and students are now flocking to the DSHOnline platform, allowing children to feel part of a social learning environment from the safety of their home. And it is working! When Mona started supporting this initiative 10 years ago, DSH was offered in 23 schools. Today, with 1,643 relevant instructional modules for grades 1-8, they are in 2,320 schools with 94,000 subscribers and 14.5M views.
COVID-19 and Aarohini Girls Empowerment program: Preventing violence against women. A program of SHEF and supported by Mona Foundation, empowers girls to see themselves as equal persons deserving of respect and is designed to promote education for girls and prevent violence and child marriage. It’s central theme is that “education can be truly transformative if it addresses the everyday reality of girls’ lives and responds to their special needs and challenges with respect and care.” This program was first implemented at Prerna School, which was founded in 2003 with 30 students.
Stay at home orders due to COVID-19 has increased the rate of domestic violence. SHEF has started an advocacy campaign with over 5,000 students, alumni and teachers to ensure that women are safe, giving them tips on how they may protect themselves and who they can reach out to in case of sexual or domestic violence. Two helpline numbers have been established.
The goal is to expand the Aarohini Initiative
• To 43 mainstream co-ed schools to help girls and boys critically understand the causes the gender injustice and resist them
• Train 125 teachers in gender justice
• Will focus on making parents advocates of gender justice and girls’ rights.
The same groups of teachers will participate in a two-day workshop that will focus on re-framing the relationship between parents and teachers to be one of mutual respect and collaboration.
The teachers will then leverage this relationship during the India’s Daughters Campaign (IDC) to create a rigorous campaign in their respective communities. IDC anticipated to reach 923 schools and 1.2 million people. This annual campaign raises awareness against gender violence, child marriage, and inequality, promote girls education, and enlists the support of the politician, community, and civil leaders.