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Nexus of Good: Building emotional resilience

The Labhya Foundation prepares marginalised children to put up a fight against poverty through social-emotional learning

Nexus of Good: Building emotional resilience
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Children from low socio-economic background lack the essential skills to cope up with emotional and financial instability caused by poverty. Currently, 128 million children are enrolled in the Indian public education system. These children live in poverty, with most having a household income of USD two or less a day.

Their vulnerabilities lead to reduced attentiveness, lack of curiosity, demotivation, powerlessness, shame and anger. These factors result in reduced motivation to learn, relationship building skills and emotional resilience. Apart from affecting their academic performance, this also takes a toll on their mental and emotional well-being, overall productivity and life choices. More specifically, this makes them less likely to pursue higher education, decrease employability and disrupt their positive mental health.

Children from the low socio-economic background in India generally lack the resources to access private education and rely rather on public education. Within such systems, at the government and the teacher level, there is a general alignment on the need to focus on the holistic improvement of underprivileged children.

However, the government and the teachers currently lack the expertise to equip children with the necessary skills to tackle the ill-effects of poverty, cope up with their reality and go on to become productive and healthy lifelong learners. As a result, there is an alarming gap between the skills our most vulnerable children need and the skills that the public education system provides.

It is in the aforementioned context that Richa Gupta, Vedant Jain and Malika Taneja founded Labhya Foundation, an educational non-profit that enables children from low socio-economic backgrounds with necessary skills to cope with the ill-effects of poverty and become life-long learners through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) interventions at scale. The founders themselves came from the realities of social adversity, financial instability and emotional distress. They had to cope with their realities of financial and emotional instability at a young age. However, there was a clear understanding that their journeys had been driven by unique opportunities and access that not all children from low socio-economic backgrounds have. This understanding drove Labhya Foundation's inception in 2017 and continues to define its mission, vision and work through the years.

SEL is the process of exploring one's emotions, maintaining healthy relationships and understanding one's role and purpose in the long term. It is considered one of the most powerful tools for social change and poverty reduction: every USD invested in SEL programmes yields USD 11 in lifelong gains in health, education, and employment. (Columbia University)

Labhya Foundation partners with state governments to co-create localised statewide SEL programmes for all children enrolled in public schools of partner states. Through these programmes, they co-create a 30-minute daily SEL class or "Happiness Class" for all students between grades K-8.

For effective co-creation and effective implementation of these programmes, Labhya provides end-to-end support to government partners throughout the process.

The end-to-end support includes the following four key components:

• Co-creation of localised SEL curriculum in the form of teacher handbooks

• Capacity building of all teachers through a Train-the-Trainer model

• Setting up of monitoring processes and evaluation of programme outcomes

• Change management at the government level to ensure mobilisation and capacitation of existing government resources and officials

Through this unique programme design, Labhya is able to effectively leverage and capacitate existing state resources, trainers, teachers and networks to create cost-effective and sustainable programmes. Further, the foundation is able to effectively build ownership of the programme within the public school system to ensure that it becomes self-sustaining and an essential part of the system.

The programmes have translated into emotionally safe spaces in classrooms, where children learn and practice social and emotional skills like mindfulness, relationship-building, action-orientation and emotion control.

Currently, Labhya Foundation has co-created and is ensuring effective implementation of the world's largest SEL interventions namely 'Happiness Curriculum' and 'Anandam Pathyacharya' with governments of Delhi and Uttarakhand respectively. A total of 2.4 million vulnerable children, 1,10,000 teachers from 19,000 public schools across two states have been impacted through government partnerships.

The foundation has also recently partnered with the Tripura government to co-create a statewide SEL programme in all public schools of Tripura. This would impact one million children. Additionally, over 5,00,000 vulnerable children have been impacted across nine states through partnerships with multilateral organisations and nonprofits.

Within the programmes, the impact on students is broken down into immediate, intermediate and long-term outcomes. These outcomes guide program design, implementation and evaluation. These outcomes are as follows:

Immediate outcomes:

○ Children develop increased motivation to learn

○ Children develop stronger relationship-building skills

○ Children develop increased emotional resilience.

Intermediate Outcomes:

○ Children are more likely to pursue higher education

○ Children are more likely to be employed

○ Children are able to effectively cope with and act in situations of emotional distress

Ultimate Impact:

○ Children are able to effectively cope with the ill effects of poverty, become lifelong learners and go on to become productive and healthy global citizens.

In the past four years, the programmes have enabled significant behavioural changes among students and positively shifted student-teacher relationships. More importantly, children have begun to demonstrate high levels of critical thinking, perseverance, reflection and empathy, thus getting onto a path to lifelong learning.

Recently, Boston Consulting Group conducted an analysis of all educational reforms carried out in Delhi which included the Happiness Curriculum. The findings of the report largely showcased significant changes among students and teachers. It reported positive effects with 60 per cent of teachers reporting higher student empathy, 46 per cent of teachers reporting better relationship skills and 45 per cent of teachers noting higher learning motivation. Further, 33 per cent of teachers observed increased levels of confidence in students and 16 per cent noted an increase in attendance. The report, therefore, not only showcases positive effects on the intended outcomes but also a more holistic impact on classroom engagement and attendance as well. Labhya Foundation has also been shortlisted as one of the 12 global finalists for the prestigious WISE education award by Qatar Foundation for its pathbreaking SEL programmes with governments.

Labhya Foundation is a wonderful example of Nexus of Good as its founders and their committed team have not only demonstrated that good work can be done, it has also shown that such work can be scaled through a public-private partnership.

Views expressed are personal

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