How are Grantmakers Supporting Public Schools and Students Affected by COVID-19?

3 min read

Preventive measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak necessitated a global economic lockdown, prompting abrupt closures of all schools and educational institutions worldwide. As per UNESCO estimates, this has negatively impacted over three-quarters of the world’s roughly 1.5 billion school children impeding their learning and psycho-social development.

As digitally-connected home-based learning methods become the order of the day, it has resulted in a spurt in demand for innovative ICT-enabled teaching and learning tools, messaging and video conferencing platforms. For disadvantaged and vulnerable student populations who depend on neighbourhood schools for their internet-enabled computer access, daily meals, library, scholarships, extra learning support, and mental health services, the continuing lockdown is undermining their progress.

The education sector has been coerced into a digital mindset, pushing their envelope to redesign pedagogy, build capacity, enhance student learning experience and maintain effective collaborations with key stakeholders.

Consolidating valuable voices from the ground during this turbulent period, we have mapped the roles philanthropic organisations can play as problem solvers and funders to bridge gaps in accessing quality education in Asia.

As Solution Providers

Central Square Foundation (CSF)​, a venture philanthropy fund and policy think tank in India, is identifying synergies with their partners in the digital solutions space to deliver effective, accessible and scalable ed-tech programs across schools and educators in India. A few of CSF’ s initiatives include:

  1. Designing and supporting digital learning programs from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the Government of India’s DIKSHA mobile application platform to engage with children on a daily basis.
  2. Tapping into parents’ networks to encourage participation in their children’s development by providing them with resources, such as free-of-cost videos and games-based mobile applications.
  3. Enhancing the quality of digital content in partnership with Google and making it available in five languages (Hindi, Telugu, Odia and Marathi).
  4. Devising of Ed-tech product evaluation index in collaboration with IIT-Mumbai for a systematic, easy to use analytical database of digital solutions with a plan to scale with the state governments at a later stage.

CSF states that its consortium of partners have made digital literacy tools- Google Bolo, Math Masti and Chimple readily available in the market, making it easier for children to improve their learning outcomes and develop key competencies during their ‘corona-holidays’.

As Shapers of Government Strategy and Action

With more than 300 million learners currently out of schools, educational non-profit foundation in India, ​Pratham is at the forefront of providing access to digital content to children between age groups between three-18 years. It ​has 3000 videos, 300 games and 3 learning applications across 11 regional languages​. In the current crisis, it has ​supported the government of Himachal Pradesh to design and implement its online home-based learning initiative (called -‘Samay Dus se Barah Wala, Har Ghar Bane Paathshaala – which translates to ‘between 10am to 12pm, every home becomes a school) for children in their early years through Grade 8. Through this program, the Foundation has supported learning needs for 600,000 children in Himachal Pradesh during the school closure period.

As Mobilisers of Emergency Funds

Octava Foundation,​ a philanthropic organization in Singapore, is undertaking a scoping exercise across families, youth and children “to understand the real gaps to inform their grant-making strategies”. In the immediate term, it is liaising with government agencies such as Ministry of Education (MOE) to provide emergency funding to,

  1. Student bursaries from low-income families impacted due to income loss/fall;
  2. Enable in the provision of ‘one good meal a day at home’ for students on the Financial Assistance Scheme in MOE schools during the school closure period.
  3. Support grantee partners and beneficiaries falling short in their outcomes from programs due to the recessionary economic outlook.

According to the Foundation the ongoing crisis has enabled them to identify systemic problems that inhibit coordinated funding support for the needy beneficiaries. These issues primarily emanating due to the pandemic, require substantial financial and socioemotional support well beyond the immediate term.

Indeed, the pandemic has made learning environments and teaching enormously challenging in the short run. Nonetheless, it has nudged NPOs to assume leadership to productively collaborate with their governments and immediate communities to effectively respond to the crisis. Find out how you can support similar public-private initiatives to reach children and families in the last mile.​ Also, consider joining our exclusively curated APFx platform​ to gain greater visibility for your initiatives and needs.


About Author
Sanchita Talukdar
Sanchita Talukdar Associate- Policy AVPN

Sanchita Talukdar, is a Junior Associate with the Policy team at AVPN, and works as researcher and content curator. She brings more than 10 years of research experience in economics and environmental policy. She has worked on various research projects in India and Singapore in the areas of environmental valuation, water quality and sanitation issues in low income countries and impact of climate change on food security for Australia and the United States. She has provided research, rapporteur services for PUB’s - Singapore International Water Week.

She is also a United Nations volunteer and currently volunteers for various grassroots level initiatives at community clubs. Previously, she worked as a research associate with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Sanchita holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the M.S. University of Baroda in India.