Chakmak keeps children learning and engaged during COVID-19 Pandemic
Chakmak represents hope, joy, happiness, accomplishment and fulfilment for children in Chhattisgarh who can now learn from home.
Parenting can be challenging especially during a pandemic. Balancing the responsibility of engaging children at home while helping them cope and adapt to this new and uncertain environment is a tightrope walk. Not many parents can strike a balance without support. There is also the challenge that too many children still can't access technology and are out of schools and anganwadis (learning centres for children aged between 3 – 6 years). There are now about 800,000 children in Chhattisgarh who used to attend more than 50,000 anganwadis before the lockdown. These children are being deprived of learning due to the COVID-19 Pandemic as their learning centres are closed.
It has been more than a month that children have been out of school and it’s likely the shutdown will continue for the next couple of months. When it is time to return, the transition back to schools, pre-schools and anganwadis could be a challenge for many children. This is why it’s so essential to keep children engaged and learning at home. It will help them to better handle the stresses of the pandemic and prepare them to rejoin their schools and anganwadis with confidence.
To cater to the learning needs of children and as part of the COVID-19 response, UNICEF recently launched a campaign to support parents and grandparents to ensure children remain engaged and learning at home. Campaign Chakmak aims to ensure that children from all walks of life have access to learning irrespective of access to technology. The government of Chhattisgarh also launched the 'Sajag' programme with the technical support from UNICEF to help anganwadis and volunteers support parents and caregivers with their children’s education while at home.
'Chakmak' (which means firestone) has become a platform for children in Chhattisgarh to express themselves creatively and share joy, happiness and fun activities with their family members.
UNICEF partnered with the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Chhattisgarh to reach out to children through their vast network of anganwadis workers. More than one million children in Chhattisgarh will benefit from the campaign with the added support of the government, networks of media, youth, school administrations, youth wings of the political parties, influencers and others.
The Media Collective for Child Rights, a collective of more than 700 reporters and journalists for children, is leading the campaign at district and village level. The reporters and journalists have provided a list of activities and tasks that both parents and children can engage in together. They are also sharing photos of children who have completed the tasks on the campaign's Facebook page called 'Chakmak Abhiyan'. National Service Scheme, Chhattisgarh which has more than 100,000 volunteers and Youth Congress with over 400,000 members have also joined the campaign.
The active participation of networks and ownership of the campaign by the State Government has made access to technology irrelevant to the learning process.
Chakmak represents hope, joy, happiness, accomplishment and fulfilment. Children from across the state are actively engaging with the campaign by sending paintings, posters and videos. The parents are elated to see their children's skills and artistry showcased on a public platform. Chamak has indeed shown there is no dearth of creativity and zeal to learn in children. They just need a Chakmak, a spark to continue to shine bright in the darkness of COVID-19.