The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been far-reaching, with approximately 81 million jobs being wiped out in 2020 in Asia-Pacific alone. Underemployment surged to unprecedented levels as more people were asked to work fewer or no hours at all. With the emerging digital world of work, upskilling became a priority for society, organizations, and governments.
Education took a big hit, too, as 1.6 billion learners were impacted when the governments abruptly shut down schools worldwide last year. Statistics suggest nearly 47% of all primary and secondary students don’t have access to digital platforms and eLearning content due to a lack of a reliable home internet connection.
Almost three billion people don’t have access to the internet. This made spreading awareness on COVID-19 symptoms, prevention, and now taking jabs a major challenge for governments.
These statistics reflect a real global digital divide leading to significant connectivity gaps between and within countries. The pandemic also exposed the long-standing fractures of gender inequalities, a higher ratio of school drop-outs due to unemployment in the families, food insecurity, and other exclusion factors.
It’s in this context that the role of education-focused, not-for-profit organizations became more critical than ever across sectors to assist in COVID awareness, upskilling, imparting digital learning, even teaching the essential life skills to help individuals adapt, sustain and grow.
NGOs and non-profits across the globe have responded to calls from governments to increase awareness of COVID-19 and vaccine safety. They have taken up campaigns to create awareness among the public on the importance of using sanitizers, wearing masks, and maintaining social distancing.
American non-profit Ad Council launched the ’It’s Up To You’ initiative that takes an empathetic approach and reaffirms for consumers that it’s understandable to have questions about the vaccines. HelpAge USA launched various campaigns and free online snackable videos to raise awareness about COVID-19 and the safety of vaccines among Black and Hispanic adults aged 60+.
India’s financial capital Mumbai is tackling vaccine hesitancy and awareness among slum dwellers who have no access to smartphones and the internet or don’t know how to use the booking app or portal. NGO Apnalaya has trained volunteers to spread awareness about COVID-19 vaccines, manage misinformation of vaccines, and help citizens register and book online slots. Another NGO, Alert Citizen Forum, is helping many get vaccinated with online slot booking assistance.
Yet another non-profit, Jhpiego, supports ministries of health in several countries, including Nigeria and Pakistan, to prepare for introducing the COVID-19 vaccine. Jhpiego is also assisting Afghanistan in planning for pharmacovigilance and monitoring of adverse events following immunization.
Upskilling and Reskilling
The pandemic accelerated the unemployment crisis. But many NGOs stepped up with their upskilling programs to make the low-income groups and marginalized communities future-ready. While some are training women to make them financially independent, others generate jobs for those who are the worst impacted.
The/Nudge Foundation’s skill development and entrepreneurship program called “The Gurukul” focus on youth employability through new-age skill training with placement opportunities. In Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, the non-profit Hand in Hand is upskilling women by teaching them computer skills. The Nation Building arm of Pan IIT India Alumni is reaching out to backward and tribal areas of India through a self-sustainable, job-assured, loan-funded, vocational skilling model, leveraging the latest technologies.
While the upending happened in most sectors, the one profession in the center of the storm – healthcare workers – was staring at the critical shortage of care workers with rising infections among them. As a result, healthcare delivery systems sought help from non-profits and other partners to upskill and transition nurses working in non-critical care areas to critical care areas.
Generation India Foundation organized a free training course to upskill nursing staff in India working with COVID-19 patients. Through eLearning content development, they created an online learning experience, showcasing content from leading clinical and medical experts. The course provides a series of assessments to confirm learning outcomes and a completion certificate. Generation aims to train more than 100,000 nurses (countrywide) through this online learning module.
Like other companies, NGOs quickly realized that they were operating in new territory and pivoted to offering novel ways of imparting learning.
For instance, the global “Room to Read” initiative, working in collaboration with local governments in South Asia, are involved in active outreach to adolescent girls to reinforce social traits of perseverance, communication, and resilience and offering millions of children a sense of continuity, stability, socio-emotional support, and positive engagement through learning.
In an Indian coastal town, Kanavu, an initiative working with the non-profit Association for Sarva Seva Farms (ASSEFA), found an innovative way to help parents who were low on mobile data and couldn’t afford data-guzzling platforms like Zoom or Hangouts. Instead, they created study materials on YouTube and used WhatsApp for communicating and conducting practice tests and homework with students and teachers.
And the learning solutions weren’t just limited to hard skills. For a majority of underprivileged or marginalized communities, life skills are more important to navigate the crisis. For example, in Bangladesh, BRAC is teaching pupils social education through small group calls on mobiles. In India, Children International SAHAY disseminates information on handwashing, preventive measures, information about COVID-19, food habits, etc., through WhatsApp, YouTube, and SMS.
While in Indonesia, Kampus Diakoneia Modern involved small groups of youth in packaging goods for low-income families and organized a gardening project to teach them how to grow their own food.
The importance of NGOs and non-profits couldn’t have been more apparent as the pandemic has shown. They act as the government’s extended arm for mobilizing resources for training the healthcare ecosystem on Covid-19 care, vaccination, and bio-medical waste management. They enable faster outreach to a large percentage of the population. Besides healthcare, they play a critical role in helping people whose livelihoods are impacted to reskill or upskill to find alternative employment.
And such outreach programs are possible when NGOs or non-profits have a reliable learning content development partner to fuel their outreach programs. Liqvid is one of the most experienced and trusted eLearning content development companies in India that closely works with several UN NGO bodies as their digital learning content partner.
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