Education amidst lockdown: 'Sion Friends Circle' distributes free books and stationery to slum kids

‘Sion Friends Circle' a social group of 20 volunteers all office-goers in this pandemic induced lockdown have started an initiative of distributing free books & stationery to poor kids dwelling on pavements and in slums.

Ashok Kurmi, the founder of this group told the Free Press Journal, "We usually engage in different initiatives, so that we can do a bit for our society. In this critical situation school kids, who are from well to do family have an option of using smartphones and can keep the learning activity ongoing. However, poor kids staying on the pavements and in slums have no smartphones, and internet connections and thus they are most affected in this pandemic as all schools are shut. Therefore, for such kids so as to enable them to continue some of their learning activity we have provided them with notebooks, writing pads and other stationery items like drawing books, colour pencils, writing material, slate, chalk, etc. so that they can sit and study even without the internet."

Interestingly, the team without taking any help from others has contributed from their own pockets for buying all the stationery material. So far about 1,000 children have been given the stationery kit Kurmi said. Moreover, working for a Pharmacy company as all his group members are, currently working from home have thought of implementing this initiative extensively. He said, "Intially we provided learning material to kids living on pavements at Sion. Later we distributed it to kids living in Dadar, Matunga, Chembur and other areas. It’s just been week's time that the drive has been launched. Moreover, we aim to reach out to a maximum number of children as lockdown has been extended till June 30 and we believe that the schools will not be opened that early as a precautionary measure."

Earlier, in a similar kind of initiative the group had provided free bike rides to students appearing for 2020 HSC board exams following Sion flyover repair works was undertaken. The closure of Sion flyover on certain days in February for repair work had been causing problems for students who had to get to examination centres. The group had decided to pick students from railway stations or bus stops and drop them at their HSC examination centres on two-wheelers, to beat traffic snarls and enable them to reach the examination halls well in time.

While the civic education department reportedly plans to begin online learning classes for students studying in BMC schools. There are about seven lakh students mostly from poor and middle class families studying in 2,245 schools of state board. The Free Press Journal has reported that civic education department officials are currently gathering data about how many students have smartphones and internet connections. Meanwhile, they are also starting the workshop on online teachers training programme.

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