India: With ‘Lockdown Learners’ initiative, UNODC engages youth confined by COVID-19
April 26, 2020
New Delhi/26 April 2020:
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected billions of people around the world and impacted all aspects of life and society. In the area of education, for instance, nearly 165 countries have implemented country-wide school and university closures, as indicated by the UN Secretary-General in his report ‘Shared responsibility, global solidarity: responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.’ More than 1.5 billion children and youth are currently out of school or university, representing 87 per cent of the world’s enrolled student population. In addition, over 60 million teachers are no longer in the classroom.
Responding to this unprecedented situation, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia has launched the ‘Lockdown Learners’ series of online engagement with students and educators in India on COVID-19 and its impact on SDGs, peace and the rule of law.
In support of the Education for Justice Initiative (E4J, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration), these dialogues aim to sensitize students on concerns of vulnerable groups and emerging issues such as cybercrime, misinformation, gender-based violence, discrimination, mental health and corruption, among others.
The Lockdown Learners series also provide a platform for students to receive mentorship and knowledge support through activity-based learning, and to use their talents and skills to promote awareness and become problem-solvers.
By April 26, interactions have been conducted with nearly 600 students and educators from schools in the Indian states/Union territories of Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, and E4J resources have been shared with over 10,000 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 across636 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.
“UNODC believes that the crisis situations like COVID-19 cannot be overcome without education, in line with the United Nations’ principle of ‘Leaving No One Behind’ and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A key area of focus is on the evolving implications of COVID-19 for children and youth, especially pertaining to human rights, health, peace, security and the rule of law,” explained Sergey Kapinos, UNODC Regional Representative for South Asia.
Among the key schools who have engaged with UNODC on the Lockdown Learners series so far include: Ahlcon Public School (New Delhi), Nahar International School (Mumbai), The Legacy School (Bengaluru) Kothari International School (Noida), JNV Jhajjar (Haryana) and the Kamla Nehru Public School (Phagwara). Some very innovative models have been used: online mediums like MS Teams, Google Meet and even Whatsapp, 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 JNV 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 net connectivity,” said Samarth Pathak, UNODC Communications Officer for South Asia. Every alternate day, the UNODC-JNV Jhhajar WhatsApp group starts buzzing at 11.30 with messages from a vibrant group of 30 bright students, all keen to learn more about the UN, COVID-19 and its impact on vulnerable groups and the SDGs.
UN diplomats and UNODC experts from other countries are also lending their support: On 24 April, the UN Cyber Chief Neil Walsh engaged with over 500 students, educators and parents from across India in an interactive dialogue on cybercrime and online safety, conducted in collaboration with The Legacy School.
The discussion was livestreamed on Facebook and touched upon issues such as bitcoins and cryptocurrency, cyberbullying, data protection, hacking and even career paths.
E4J’s educational tools put great emphasis on values, on helping children build skills which empower them, and on teaching them to think. These varied products include free-to-use educational material, comics, board and online games, The Zorbs cartoon series, and other modules and videos that may be used by teachers, parents and students at home to develop an understanding on peace and the rule of law.
UNODC welcomes schools to join these efforts in creating a positive framework for students to be productive and engaged during this period of lockdown, to reduce stress through positive messaging, and to empower young people to become champions of tomorrow.