Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: June 05, 2023

Rediscovering their Joy for Learning

By now, it’s a well-known fact that COVID-19 caused significant learning losses among students, with very few exceptions. Still, some were better able to rebound after pandemic restrictions expired and school resumed as usual. In India, Salesian missionaries have devised creative ways to help less fortunate youth get back on track.

These innovations can’t come soon enough for students like 15-year-old Agreetha, whose father’s death during the pandemic further complicated her struggles with remote learning.

“We know that children who were already experiencing significant economic and social disadvantages fared the worst during the coronavirus emergency,” explains Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “The digital divide became an unbridgeable gap for students in rural and impoverished communities without internet access. These students quickly fell even further behind than most, and many ultimately dropped out of school altogether.”

In fact, according to our missionaries around the world, nearly 147 million children had missed more than half of their in-person education two years into the pandemic. Of those, more than 27 million weren’t physically present in the classroom over 75 percent of the time. As a result of this lost in-person learning—which adds up to a collective 2 trillion hours globally—students like Agreetha experienced a sharp drop in basic literacy and other foundational academic skills they need to create better, more secure futures.

That’s why, throughout India, nearly 800 disadvantaged students can now visit 30 Salesian-sponsored study centers for extra academic support.

“Staff at each center encourage participating youth to focus on their learning and homework; practice their language skills; and have a little fun by playing sports and other games, too,” says Fr. Tim. “Recreation encourages socialization, interaction and teamwork—skills that were also lost to the pandemic—and by rebuilding them, youth discover an added layer of support as they progress through their studies together. Plus, the availability of sports can draw youth in who otherwise may not be motivated to continue their education.”

Thanks to generous donors of Salesian Missions, these students are also well equipped to succeed.

“With support from our many friends, missionaries were able to purchase basic school supplies such as books, pencils, erasers and rulers for the students to complete their examinations,” Fr. Tim reports. “They also bought and distributed sports & recreation equipment to each of the 30 centers.”

Agreetha’s experience demonstrates the power of small gestures like these—which fuel our missionaries’ broader efforts every day.

“I was finding it very difficult to read both Tamil and English,” she explains, “but after joining the Center, I am doing well in my reading and writing. The teacher taught me to read Tamil and English. I thank all those who help me to do my studies well.”

Learn more about our work in India.

Our mission ensures that impoverished, marginalized and at-risk children have access to education—and the holistic support they need to succeed in school. What’s your mission?

Help now with a gift