Fun Saturdays: Friendships under Lockdown

“Ye mere dost isliye hain kyunki ye meri madad karte hain” - Prabhav Pandey, Grade 4, Simple School, Bhim Nagri

Pravina has been working with the children at Simple School, Bhim Nagri, for several years now and shares a close relationship with all of them. This year, sometime between January and February, she observed something peculiar about her fourth-grade classroom on Zoom. She noticed that a few students were excitedly talking to each other and had so much to share as they waited for the other students to join. She asked them if they would like a space just for themselves, and they nodded eagerly. Before the lockdown, they had ample time to talk. In schools, children would see each other almost every day, eat together during recess, participate in extracurricular activities, invent games, exchange stories, pick fights, and do so much more. Since classes have shifted online, the spaces for social interaction have narrowed significantly, making it challenging to keep in touch. Recognizing this, Pravina repurposed an old WhatsApp group into a space where the students could freely talk to each other. A few days later, the students approached her again with the idea of "Fun Learning Saturdays" and wanted her help. With her hands full with work, she informed them that she wouldn't moderate these sessions and could only set up the zoom meetings. They gladly agreed, taking the lead to plan and organize. Several months have passed since, and the "Fun Learning Saturdays" continue to thrive. Sana, Parmila, Ragini, Ritika, Alok, Shivam, and Suraj are among the group's regular members. "Every week, they come up with something new," shared Pravin. From dancing together, doing art, exercising, watching movies, and having virtual picnics, they individually facilitate various activities. Several girls in the group who felt inspired by Pravina came up with the idea to teach the younger kids how to read and speak English through phonics. They are planning to execute their plan soon! Friendships are crucial to our development as individuals in several ways. They teach us how to communicate our needs, build mutual trust, resolve conflict, be empathetic, and support each other's growth. Can you imagine your childhood without your friends?  "I have seen many new friendships bloom over the lockdown," Pravina says, recalling an incident with Prabhav, a newcomer in class. Worried about his well-being, she asked him how he felt in the new school and whether he made any friends. He responded with several names and added,"ye mere dost isliye hain kyunki ye meri madad karte hain". As children strive to develop these bonds, we must continue to make spaces for them to interact with each other to build meaningful friendships and grow.  So much of our world looks different today than it did before the pandemic. But despite the challenges, friendships continue to persevere and thrive.

- Shivangi Gupta, Research and Design Intern

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