How one nonprofit organization is helping Mumbai’s children during the pandemic

Dhai Akshar is helping children meet their academic and extracurricular goals by providing them with the resources to continue learning amid COVID-19 restrictions

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Students of Dhai Akshar during one of their sessions.   Nyla Masood, Co-founder, Dhai Akshar.

Children often evoke a picture of innocence, of learning and an untainted rendition of life and expression. That is what the children at Dhai Akhar, a nonprofit organization based in Mumbai, India, have been given an opportunity to preserve and persevere.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on an onslaught of various closures on services, offices and education. In a country such India, where the literacy rate is 74 per cent among a population of more one billion people, any hit on education services is a big setback. Due to the pandemic, underprivileged children who rely on free services provided by the government for their secondary and post-secondary education had to pause their studies either because of pressure from the family to earn money to make up for the loss of income resulting from loss of daily wage labour (usually carried out by parents) during the pandemic or because of severe lockdowns.  

A lot of NGOs and other organizations have come forward to help provide these kids with the means to continue with their education. Among them is Dhai Akshar based in Mumbai, India. Founder Nyla Masood and her colleagues have been working to provide children with smartphones and internet connections so they can attend classes via Zoom.

Masood started the NGO with a friend when she was working on a film, Stanley Ka Dabba, in 2010, which put her in contact with underprivileged children. She realized she wanted to curate a space for them and Dhai Akshar was born.

“We decided to open this library of books and games for them [underprivileged kids],” she said.

Over the past eight years, Masood and her colleagues built a multidisciplinary space for the children of Dhai Akshar, but have not been able to use it during the pandemic. To cope with the weight of safety restrictions, Dhai Akshar moved all its facilities online. The first challenge they faced was the lack of technology and equipment on the children’s end. So they decided to provide for them. 


“We had to buy phones for them and we started teaching them online,” said Masood. “And we also did the recharge (internet provision/data top-up) on the phones so that they don’t have to pay for it and that took care of their school activities.”

The NGO also sought out to collect donations specifically aimed at providing food rations for the children enrolled at Dhai Akshar.

“Miss Nyla collected donations and provided everyone with rations. Everyone was in dire necessity of food during the lockdown,” volunteer Umesh Singh said in Hindi. “She reassured parents that the NGO would help with food and rations, and encouraged parents to help their children continue with education via online mean like WhatsApp.”

Singh started his journey with the organization as a student himself. So did Rohith Gulla, who now teaches science and math with the NGO.

“I was never interested in dancing or singing but Nyla encouraged me to at least try. Now it comes naturally,” Gulla said in Hindi. “I like dancing and singing. We used to feel shy earlier but the NGO encouraged us to shine through with our talent and gave us the agency to perform.”

The NGO has been helping these children also gain employment through drama and in the film industry. Despite adversity and a global pandemic, the children of Dhai Akshar have found a haven in the NGO that is fighting all odds to provide them with the education they deserve and a safe place to explore their talents.

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Posted: May 4 2021 4:22 pm
Filed under: COVID-19 Education News