Sitting on the dirt floor of her simple home, Sunita organizes the worksheets her father delivered to her that morning from school. She has not seen her teachers since March, and she misses them dearly. These precious papers represent a relationship to her. These worksheets are not simple assignments. They are a symbol of hope brought to her from her 5 years attending DFN’s Good Shepherd School.
School will be different for her this year because of “CV19” as it has become known across India. 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 first goes to the school to get Sunita’s assignments. Her education must not be interrupted despite the challenges COVID brings.
Before beginning her assignments, Sunita puts on her house slippers and walks next door to the neighbor’s house which adjoins her own. She calls through the open door, “Auntie! It’s me!” The neighbor 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 expertly logs in to the WhatsApp group where her teacher has left instructions on how to do her math assignment. She sharpens her pencil and begins the assignment. When finished, she uses the borrowed phone to snap a photo of her assignment 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 neighbor’s phone, and doing the best she can to understand new curriculum without the help of in-person instruction. She’s heard that school may start in September and the mere possibility of that 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 DFN is 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, DFN promises to bring dignity to its students and their families through education, healthcare, and economic empowerment. DFN and its teachers care deeply for children just like Sunita and can’t wait to see them in person when it’s safe to do so once again.
Stories are real, all names and photos have been changed for protection, and are representative.