JNM-UNODC Dialogue on Student Engagement in Post COVID-19 World: Jagran New Media and UNODC – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, organized a Dialogue exploring the theme of ‘Student Engagement on Social Issues post COVID-19’. With the Coronavirus pandemic getting serious by the day, educators and academicians are faced with a unique challenge of trying newer and innovative ways to minimize the academic disruption. At the same time, to ensure holistic development of students, they also have to help the students be socially responsible by guiding them to respond to issues and challenges faced by the society at large. In the absence of classroom setting, educators have had to evolve ingenious ways to drive social engagement among students and also help sensitize them towards social challenges that faced by the country.
Student Engagement on Social Issues post COVID-19
The Dialogue was attended by a distinguished panel consisting of educators and experts from across the country, which had an enriching conversation on the topic of driving student engagement on social issues. The panel deliberated on the question of why social engagement among students is a pivotal factor in laying a strong foundation for mature, responsible and socially aware citizens of tomorrow.
The panel was moderated by Mr Parikshit Bhardwaj (Head – Content, jagranjosh.com), who was joined by Mr Samarth Pathak (Communications Officer and Focal Point –Education for Justice Initiative, Regional Office for South Asia, UNODC), Mr Bishwajit Singh (Commissioner – Navodaya Vidhyalaya Samiti), Mr Ramachandra AN (Sr Consultant, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti), Ms Vandana Arora (Principal, Nahar International School, Mumbai), Ms Jaimala Tewari (Principal, Round Table Abhinav Vidhyalaya, Mirza Murad, Uttar Pradesh), Ms Dipti Chawla (Activity Co-ordinator, Kothari International School, Noida) and Mr Arun Bhashkar (Teacher, St Vincent’s High and Technical School, Asansol).
Knowledge Sharing Session
The Dialogue was held as a knowledge sharing session in which the panellists shared their ideas and interventions that they have introduced and experimented with to drive student engagement on social issues since March 2020 i.e. the lockdown period. The session started with opening remarks by Mr Samarth Pathak, who stressed upon the need to rethink the general approach in which we engage with children and youth, especially through education. He also added that today’s session would help look at the question of how in the post COVID-19 world, we can build citizenship values with focus on integrity, ethics and rights, which would also contribute to the larger goals of promoting peace, justice and sustainable development.
Role of Teachers in Making Students Better Citizens
On the question of how schools and especially school teachers can contribute in making students better citizens of tomorrow, the panel felt that early introduction of students to social issues and challenges faced by our world, helps in ensuring that students get sensitized towards these issues at an early age. The panellists also felt that instead of the nature or scale of the initiative, it is important that the activities being planned to sensitize students convey the right message. Therefore, schools and academic institutions should focus on picking small and practical initiatives through which they can engage students on social issues and drive their engagement.
Digital Divide among Students
On the topic of digital divide among the students, the panel felt that the main challenge that they were facing was not with regards to the education content or the ability of the educators to deliver the lessons, but instead it was on the infrastructure front. Many students, especially those from poor and rural backgrounds, do not have devices that can enable them to attend classes and actively participate in the social engagement initiatives being run by schools. To counter this, schools have been trying to connect with several governmental agencies, NGOs and even private organizations to arrange learning devices for the students.
Highlighting UNODC’s efforts, Mr Samarth Pathak said, “Under our Lockdown Learners series and the Education for Justice Initiative, we have engaged with schools in various states so far, reaching students and educators from across social and economic backgrounds. There have been a lot of good practices as well—including capacity building of educators, providing a platform to enterprising students to showcase their skills and efforts, using technology, videos and cartoons, and interactions with a very human touch to reach students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, like we have done for example, in the states of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana”.
He also urged educators, media, corporates and investors to join hands with UNODC in their efforts and said, “Together, we can really create very impactful initiatives, especially as the world looks at new learnings from COVID-19, on the way societies should work.”
The session ended with hope-generating and positive remarks from all panellists reinforcing the growing relevance of youth engagement in social issues, especially in the post-COVID world.
Stay tuned for the forthcoming Dialogues where similar interactive dialogues will be held to amplify the voices that need to be heard and to discuss issues of global concern.