School Ki Ghanti – Listen, Learn, Imagine

Team of School Ki Ghanti

 Using digital storytelling to create access to education possible for children during the Covid pandemic

On the 24 March 2020, with the announcement of a lockdown in India as the nation stepped into their homes, thousands of children stepped out of formal education. Schools have now been shut for the past six months, leaving children at home with no access to education because of lack of resources and infrastructure. Statistics show that the education sector has been hit particularly hard with 1.3 billion learners out of school and school closures in 195 countries.

The question is simple – How would children access education without gadgets, smartphones, and internet connection?

“School Ki Ghanti aims to make education and learning practices more inclusive and accessible even for those who have no access to the internet.”

School Ki Ghanti aims to make education and learning practices more inclusive and accessible even for those who have no access to the internet. The founder of School Ki Ghanti, Vedika Lall, is an information designer. She has always shown a keen interest in system design, interventions and activism. With inclusivity and equity being the central lens, she aimed to look beyond the world of e-learning, online platforms and digital accessibility. It’s the 21st century and education is still based on privilege, accessibility and availability of resources. One needs to take informed and unbiased measures to find alternate and complementary solutions for children from vulnerable communities/ toxic households and backgrounds. The need of the hour is to leverage technology to build enabling ecosystems that bridge this digital gap in India. Lall realized that this crisis brought an urgent need to reimagine the teaching and learning landscape. That is when the seed of School Ki Ghanti was sown, with an attempt to create a new resilient narrative by responding to such a situation both mindfully and empathetically. It shows how simple technology can carve learning paths to engage students and encourage adaptive learning. 

At School Ki Ghanti, the next lesson is only a phone call away. They are trying to reimagine learning through the age-old practice of storytelling to design inclusive and accessible learning systems so that every child gets an equal opportunity to learn.

At School Ki Ghanti, the next lesson is only a phone call away. They are trying to reimagine learning through the age-old practice of storytelling to design inclusive and accessible learning systems so that every child gets an equal opportunity to learn. School Ki Ghanti is run by a passionate group of people who have come together to radically reimagine learning as the world grapples with a pandemic and its aftermath. The multi-talented team ensures a story 5 days a week, every day at 4 pm without any delays or excuses. Even a five-minute-long narrative involves multiple people responsible for  – scheduling, researching, writing, communication and impact analysis.

“The aspiration is to reach children currently deprived of any kind of learning opportunity. School Ki Ghanti that started with phone calls reaching thirty children in May now has more than four-hundred children listening and diligently completing the activities as instructed at the end of each story.”

The aspiration is to reach children currently deprived of any kind of learning opportunity. School Ki Ghanti that started with phone calls reaching thirty children in May now has more than four-hundred children listening and diligently completing the activities as instructed at the end of each story. Many even maintain a notebook where they record the stories they heard, the lessons learned, and also the ensuing activities they undertook. Medha Kapoor, a sound designer of the modules, believes that sound can evoke imagination and memory and thus each narration is carefully edited and bejeweled with appropriate sound effects to keep the listener engaged. 

“This one-of-a-kind school bell rings Monday to Friday, sharp at 4 as an important reminder of love, hope and the little joys of finding a friend over the phone. It is for anyone who wants to embrace a call of cheer and play. We want to engage kids with little or no access and introduce a fun learning tool in their lives.”

Storytelling is one of the oldest, traditional technologies which has the innate power to penetrate and affect the mind. When paired with an engaging audio experience these stories are rewired to life to bring out increased engagement and retention. This one-of-a-kind school bell rings Monday to Friday, sharp at 4 as an important reminder of love, hope and the little joys of finding a friend over the phone. It is for anyone who wants to embrace a call of cheer and play. They want to engage kids with little or no access and introduce a fun learning tool in their lives. With the powerful skill of listening, it allows them to visualize the plot and characters and opens an arena to curate new and age-old stories integrated with basic primary school knowledge. 

“The story-based pedagogy incubates the oral tradition, revisits folktales, drives new ideas and also tries to decolonise the rote method of learning.”

School Ki Ghanti aims to reach out to children with stories based in local contexts and allow them to think of solutions to the day to day challenges faced in their local community. Pankhuri Sinha, a Design Researcher and Product/lifestyle designer heads the content team and understands the complexities of writing for children. Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. It allows children the freedom to choose what they want to learn and develop their insights through art. The story-based pedagogy incubates the oral tradition, revisits folktales, drives new ideas and also tries to decolonise the rote method of learning. 

As a pedagogical tool, one can use storytelling to explore cultural diversity, to discover a variety of ways to create stories, to integrate the curriculum, to foster imagination, and to investigate the power of narrative. Stories can simplify a complex subject. They can be used effectively to teach lessons in a way that allows children to retain information and stay interested.

Story-based learning helps to reach novices in ways they cannot with other dry, rote, deductive strategies. School Ki Ghanti’s module is as follows:
1) The module consists of an introduction of the new chapter or story with an engaging sound of a school bell.
2) The story starts with the narrator performing it with different voice modulation to keep the children engaged and excited. To increase the element of fun, they also intersperse the narration with sound effects and tunes.
3) The story will then be followed with a small exercise, which the child can act upon and choose to send it to their facilitators.

Art and drawing-based activities allow children to let their imaginations unfold. When they draw they access their imagination and make physical representations of what’s in their mind. It makes children more expressive and enhances their motor skills. With a lot of stories-based in their local context, such exercises also allow them to think of creative problem-solving methods, for instance, poster making exercises to create awareness in their community. Their passion and energy is reflected through these activities. Here, phones act as a perfect tool to interact, engage, inform, and effectively educate listeners in their mother tongue. It is the most accessible medium for both urban and rural citizens and can facilitate remote learning effectively.

“It costs just INR 110 ($1.5) to make education accessible for a child for one month. Crowdfunding campaigns/ strategies helped raise funds and to gather community support.”

It costs just INR 110 ($1.5) to make education accessible for a child for one month. Crowdfunding campaigns/ strategies helped raise funds and to gather community support. Currently, more than 400 children are benefitting from the system and to maintain the call and content creation costs as well as reach out to more children who do not have access to the internet right now. Uurja Bothra, the co-founder and the business strategist realised that to make School Ki Ghanti effective, they need to be able to assess the impact School Ki Ghanti was creating and how well children were receiving their content. For that, they then developed a system that tracks engagement levels of children across groups through parameters like how often they pick up the call and whether they hear the entire story. This helped gauge the response their content got as well as identify and focus on different cohorts. 

Today, covering around 5 cities including Patna, Delhi, Raipur, Ranchi, Jaipur, and many districts, School Ki Ghanti’s impact analysis show that 91% of their listeners eagerly wait for the calls, 92% of them diligently do the exercise recommended with each story and 94% say that they can understand the stories that are being narrated. Their maximum audience falls in the age group of 6 to 10 years old. Their most popular stories are that of animals, nature, scientific facts as well as Motivational stories. Drawing and colouring activities keep the kids engaged. Sometimes when children are unable to listen to the calls, they ask their parents to listen and narrate it to them later or even record it.

Since the inception of this initiative, conversations and collaborations with NGOs and individuals have provided great insight and channelled growth. The collaborations aim at welcoming participatory efforts in order to drive change and reach diverse communities, partnering with new networks. Vandana, a teacher associated with Samarpan Foundation quoted: “kids are interested in the story and listen to the story and they are also learning a lot from the story. Overall they enjoy the story,”

“Deekshashree, one of the listeners quotes: ‘I love to listen to the story based lessons and do the activities as well. My favourite stories are Ek Jadaui Subah and Laddoo Party. My sister and I listen to them over the speaker together and are very fond of them. We eagerly wait for the calls.'”

At present, the aim is to grow this initiative along with mentors and supporters. School Ki Ghanti along with their outreach partners have impacted many lives. The model has been used for children from several communities, where the teacher makes the phone available to them in groups of ten. They follow social distancing and listen to the call on speakerphone, after which the teacher facilitates discussion and the exercise.

Deekshashree, one of the listeners quotes: “I love to listen to the story based lessons and do the activities as well. My favourite stories are Ek Jadaui Subah and Laddoo Party. My sister and I listen to them over the speaker together and are very fond of them. We eagerly wait for the calls.” 

“It’s been a delight to hear these children listen and understand what is being conveyed through stories. They enjoy the characters and due to no internet, this storytelling learning has given them new ways to learn and enjoy new things.” says Kusumlata, Principal of GPSS Pathankot. 

“While private schools take over digital space and provide experiential learning through zoom calls and Google hangouts, the underprivileged are suffering because of the digital divide. It is important to design empathy-driven systems that promise equal access and optimize reach to all sections of the society.”

While private schools take over digital space and provide experiential learning through zoom calls and Google hangouts, the underprivileged are suffering because of the digital divide. It is important to design empathy-driven systems that promise equal access and optimize reach to all sections of the society. For a better future, young designers, teachers, creative practitioners must come together and ensure that remote learning becomes more inclusive, accessible and empathy-driven. They are bringing lost schooldays to children from underprivileged and marginalised groups via phone calls, one story-lesson at a time.

We are trying to reimagine learning through the age old practice of storytelling to design inclusive and accessible learning systems so that every child gets equal opportunity. It cost just INR 110 to make learning/education accessible for a child for 1 month. To learn more, visit our website at – www.schoolkighanti.org

Design by School Ki Ghanti

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