Sitting on the dirt floor of her simple home, *Sunita organises the worksheets her father collected from her school that morning. She has not seen her teacher since March, and she misses her dearly. These worksheets are not simply assignments, they represent a relationship to her. They are a symbol of hope from her 5 years attending DFN’s Good Shepherd School.
School is different this year because of COVID-19. Her father used to go to work every day. Now his job is gone and he struggles to provide food for the family. Because in-person, classroom instruction is not allowed, every morning he goes to the school to collect Sunita’s assignments. Her education must not be interrupted despite the challenges COVID brings.
Before beginning her assignments, Sunita runs next door to the neighbour’s house and calls through the open door, “Auntie! It’s me!” The neighbour woman knows exactly why Sunita has come and brings her smartphone to place in the eager girl’s hand. “I’ll need it back in one hour, please.” Sunita promises to return it promptly and scurries off.
She logs in to her class WhatsApp group and begins her maths assignment, discussing the problem with her teacher. She uses the borrowed phone to snap a photo of her assignment to send to her teacher. Then, she turns to her English assignment which is also due today.
Day after day, Sunita continues in the same way. Tackling two subjects per day, borrowing her neighbour’s phone, and doing the best she can to understand new curriculum with the help of her teacher via WhatsApp. She’s heard school may start before too long and the mere possibility fills her with delight. She misses her teachers. She misses her friends. She misses the confidence she feels when she wears her clean and neatly pressed uniform to school.
COVID-19 has changed young Sunita’s life, but we are committed to continuing her education in new and creative ways. Whether that is via worksheets, WhatsApp group discussions, video instruction, or tablet technology where available, our promise to bring dignity to students and their families through education, healthcare, and economic empowerment remains. Our teachers care deeply for children like Sunita and can’t wait to see them in person when it’s safe to do so once again.
*Names and places changed to protect identity
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