An empowerment-based Mentoring Model for continuing education in post-COVID Bihar: Postcards for students

Funded by the Malala Fund, CBPS has been working on an action research empowerment-based mentoring model for adolescent girls (hereafter, referred to as the Bihar Mentorship Project (BMP)). We started this project in 2018, and have been developing mentorship modules for adolescent children, primarily girls in government schools in Bihar. The purpose of these modules is to help students enhance their critical thinking skills and encourages them to question dominant notions around knowledge, gender, caste etc.

During the lockdown imposed by Covid-19 health crisis, we conducted a large-scale rapid telephonic survey to gauge the level of access students have to technology and to understand the experiences of children during the lockdown. The survey revealed that 47% of the students have access to phones and only 31% have access to smart phones. Based on the results of the survey, which clearly indicated the digital divide based on class and gender, we devised a distance learning module that could potentially reach all students, their parents, and teachers. Given that schools have been closed, we are using postcards as the primary mode of communication and learning.

We are sending two cards through book-post mode (because printed post card is more expensive than book-post) every week to students with varied materials starting with those that provide the context and rationale for hand-washing, engaging the children to place this health crisis in the context of other epidemics and natural disasters, and trying to get them to think about the linkages between disease, nutrition and health through a gendered lens. It includes activities that enable them to think and delve deeper into certain issues while also learning from their context including their immediate families, neighbours, neighbourhood and surroundings. It includes small interview-based, observation-based and working-with hands-based projects, and integrated science with society.

We are also supplementing this information sent through postcards by using WhatsApp and SMS to those who do have access to phones. To enhance a dialogue, we are also sending postcards to parents and teachers so that they are able to support the material sent to the students. Additionally, we are providing space for students to engage with the team by sending them stamped postcards, if they want to respond to our materials. We are designing the content in a manner that it does not force but enables them to respond – we are emphasising their engagement rather than completion of the activities. We have also sent them a stationary kit consisting of sketch pens and a notebook to ensure that they have access to learning materials along with these postcards. One major objective is also to maintain relationship with children so that they can approach us in case of any distress or a sense of insecurity or isolation during these difficult times.

Photographs can be viewed here – 

We are absolutely happy to announce that the first 7 batches of postcards have been sent to the students along with 2 postcards meant for parents. The first batch of postcards have been received by students along with the stationery kits, and a few of them have already called to let us know that they are happy to receive the cards and are going to be doing the activities in the cards.