India, May 17, 2020: Children and youth are the hidden victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of education as well as mental and physical well-being. More than 130 countries have now closed schools nationwide, impacting nearly 80 per cent of students globally.
This is unprecedented – the world has never seen this many children out of school at the same time. Such lockdowns and school closures can have an adverse impact on children’s education and their mental health, while the risks of exploitation and abuse are higher than ever, for boys and girls alike. There is also a need to sensitise children on emerging issues, such as discrimination, gender-based violence, misinformation and cybercrime, among others.
Developed under UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) Initiative, the “Lockdown Learners” is a series of free-of-cost, online interactive dialogues with students and educators in India on topics pertaining to COVID-19 and its impact on the SDGs (especially SDG 16), peace and the rule of law. It includes sensitisation of students on issues such as cybercrime, misinformation, gender-based violence, discrimination, and corruption, among others. The Lockdown Learners series also aims to provide a platform for students to receive mentorship and knowledge support to use their skills to promote awareness among these issues and share their ideas and solutions to address some of these problems.
Detailed features on this initiative:
- UNODC: https://www.unodc.org/southasia/en/frontpage/2020/April/india_-with-lockdown-learners-initiative–unodc-engages-youth-confined-by-covid-19.html
- UN in India: https://in.one.un.org/news/india-with-lockdown-learners-initiative-unodc-engages-youth-confined-by-covid-19/
Over the last two weeks, interactions have been conducted with nearly 1500 students and educators from schools in the Indian states/Union territories of Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, and free-to-use resources have been shared with over 14,000 students in the schools. In addition, with support from the Commissioner of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV), Shri Bishwajit Kumar Singh, E4J tools and resources have also been shared with educators across 636 JNVs across the country—the total strength of students in JNVs across India is 2,65,574 – and multiple interactive sessions have been conducted with students from JNV Jhajjar. These are not one-off sessions; but a series of interactions aimed at a longer-term collaboration with schools, with activity-based learning for students at its core. Online mediums like MS Teams, Google Meet and even Whatsapp are being used, with due precautions taken on ensuring privacy and safety of all students.
Some of these are also good practices that may also be emulated by others to reach students with limited internet access—for instance, in UNODC’s collaboration with the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Jhajjar, we are working by interacting with groups of students through WhatsApp, using voice notes and audio recordings and images. These are cost-effective ideas that may be used by students with limited network connectivity.