Learning Beyond Limits: Read and write in rural India

Teach middle school students in remote rural India to read and write in English. Covid forced schools to shut down in many rural areas in India. Children from low-income families are especially affected due to this. To empower them to learn, we found that it was critical to teach them to read and write. We have partnered with AidIndia’s Eurekha Education program and as TeenAiders to teach such children virtually. LBL is a rotation program with multiple subjects, and we teach “English read and write”. Our first rotation had 70 students and we taught 42 of them. Our second rotation just began, and we have 150 students signed up already!

Friday night for us in San Diego could not be more fun than spending with the students thousands of miles away in remote areas eager to learn. So far, we have taught four rotations covering over 42 students. The groups in the rotation are named after famous cartoon characters and the students are from rural areas without access to laptops or electronic device for online education. They all use their parents’ cell phone. We conduct the classes through Zoom! We have 1-2 coordinators in their local areas that ensure the students are all set to attend these sessions. Regular homework is assigned, and the students send the work back through WhatsApp! 

After 5 weeks of a rotation, there is a group-wide presentation with all students, teachers, coordinators, and translators to share what the classes have learned.

The exciting part of this initiative is that it is not a one-time activity but a longer-term one. The activity itself may not make then an expert at reading but our hope is that it would kindle their curiosity to take it further.

Our classes and gallery

A TeenAider partnership with AID India

January to February 2021 classes: Scooby Doo Team

The first team of students we taught – this was their first ever Zoom-based learning session. However, they were very engaged and energetic asking questions. When they started the rotation, they could read only few words and would hesitate to talk in English. We saw a lot of confidence in both reading and more so in writing when they completed the session. Very proud of this group!

February presentation of Scooby Doo learning

February to March 2021 classes: Dora Team

This is a very high-energy team with everyone on video in Zoom enthusiastic to read, write, ask questions and learn. The two local coordinators’ attitude made a huge difference to this team’s learning. The coordinators (Mala and Manimekalai) also learned along with the students and they “showed by example” that learning could happen at any age.

The team were at an intermediate level when they started, however, reading beyond a paragraph and complex words were opportunities to be addressed. With a no-limits mindset, great coordinators and encouragement that they could do it, all students were able to read multiple paragraphs and even write by the end of the rotation! In addition, they were also able to write short stories which were a joy to read.

Dora team Read and Write: First week of class

Dora team Read and Write: Last week of class

Dora class sharing the fun they had learning

April to May 2021 classes: Mickey Team

This is a very special team – it is all girls! All of them are very bright and at an intermediate level. Members of this team all live in different rural villages where internet connectivity is a challenge. So we did Zoom with audio more. When this team began their week 1, they were very good with simple sentences. However, reading or writing longer stories beyond a paragraph was a gap. This team has worked hard last 5 weeks and are now able to stretch themselves and read more long stories. They read “The Story of Yes and No” easily and it was moment of pride for all! Their writing also improved incredibly, and we have no doubt some may become authors!

Mickey team Read and Write: Last week of class

May to June 2021 classes: Bugs Bunny Team

The Bugs Bunny Team, like the other groups we have worked with, showed tenacity and a love for learning in their pursuit of the English language. They finished their assignments very well and were able to tackle their homework with ease. When we first started teaching this group, some students struggled to read the sentences we provided but by the end of our time with the group, those students had overcome their struggles and were able to take on even the most complex words and sentences. They were even able to sustain a conversation with us in English at our last meeting, something which none of the other groups did yet. They asked us about our school, home, and hobbies and responded to some of our questions about their lives well. With the constant improvement and persistence this group showed, they were able to learn the elements of the English language we taught them proficiently and will be able to use this skill in the future!