YGB starts funding 800 students through Project Shale, to combat learning delays and gaps for poor and rural children in India.

With increased support from our global supporters during India’s COVID crisis this year, Yoga Gives Back has added an important new program called Project Shale (“shale” is Kannada for “school”), which provides professional development and experiential learning for teachers at poorly-funded government schools in order to address the  severe learning delays and gaps that poor, rural and girl children have faced during the 18-months long, pandemic-related school closures.  Like many rural and poor children, most children in the areas that we serve were not able to access online education during the pandemic due to the lack of internet and computers.  An article in the Wire discussed the realities of this Digital Divide that especially impact rural, poor, and female children are facing.  Due to the lack of access, coupled with the need to help their increasingly impoverished families, many children dropped out of education during the pandemic, and tragically, are unlikely to ever complete their education. 

According to author Monika Chaudhary, “Girls are at greater risk of being deprived of their education, as they are pushed towards paid and unpaid labour as well as child marriage in times of crisis. It is likely that many adolescent girls who stop going to school during the pandemic will never return.” 

At the primary level, children learn foundational skills that prepare them for higher learning.  Project Shale aims to reinforce the fundamental concepts and skills of Science and Mathematics for children in government primary schools as a strategy to engage them in experiential, hands-on learning, as well as to redress the learning delays they have experienced over the last 18 months.  According to a Project Shale spokesperson, “Huge gaps in these skills will steal their opportunities to pursue higher education, thus impacting their livelihood. This is not just restricted to academic skills but also to socio-emotional skills. Most of the children who drop out of the school system have not acquired these foundational skills”.

The need for this program is critical,  as schools are finally permitted to re-open after an 18-month closure. The need to combat the lost progress and learning opportunities; to protect children from being forced to drop out of education; and to mitigate the dangers of child slavery and labor are a constant danger – are nothing short of urgent.

 A recent article in Alajazeera discusses the rise in child labor and child slavery for poor children, especially those that have dropped out of school.  Prajna Neelgund, of Deenabandhu Trust and Project Shale shared vital information concerning the learning loss that occurred during the COVID-19 lockdowns for local children, and the challenges faced by teachers to get children back into school and to prevent them from dropping out.  The findings from a study conducted in 44 districts across 5 states reported that 89% of the children from 5th and 6th standards have lost at least one fundamental skill in mathematics, and 93-95% children have lost at least one language skill such as reading or writing.   According to Prajna  “we need to support the teachers so they can gather in community with proper support and learn new skills to help the children mend the learning loss,” watch the full interview with Prajna on Instagram Live.

YGB is currently supporting 800 students and dozens of teachers in alliance with Project Shale.  The first teacher training was held at “learning centers” throughout the rural communities we support on school property, impacting children in over 40 schools.  Check out these photos from the first Teacher Training which focused on basic physical skills, and how the children enjoyed these activities in their first weeks back to school!