A pilot project in Kasargod deploys school teachers for social outreach on Covid safety and medical surveillance

MAASH volunteers conduct Covid-safety outreach in Kasargod

In northern Kerala, the colloquial Malayalam word for teacher is ‘maash’. As community educators, they are a widely respected demographic. In June 2020, Kasargod’s district collector Dr D. Sajith Babu, hoping to leverage this social capital to amplify the state government’s Covid-safety awareness and tracking programmes, reached out to high school teacher C.P. Vidya to head up a new initiative. Called MAASH, this project roped in the district’s teachers for the state’s IEC (information, education and communication) outreach efforts. Just a few months prior to that, Kasargod district had accounted for over a quarter of Kerala’s total Covid cases—178 of the state’s 505 cases in March 2020.

“In March-April last year, the district saw a sharp increase in Covid cases, and then again in June,” says Sajith. He says that a number of risk factors for public health had been identified, such as an increasing number of Covid protocol violations, which prompted the district to “introduce a novel platform involving teachers in the IEC activity against Covid in the district.” Project coordinator C.P. Vidya, says, “While working with the project, I met hundreds of people. It inspired me to do more for my local community. I believe that everyone of us has a role to play in the time of pandemic.”

The 1,600 teachers who joined this effort were given three primary tasks—educating the public about Covid safety protocols, joining the medical surveillance teams at the ward level and assisting in compiling village-level statistics about the spread of cases. To achieve their goals, teachers came up with innovative programmes like messages on community radio, Facebook Live presentations and counselling for families affected by Covid.

“I was infected with Covid and remained at home for almost 21 days,” says Suresh Mohan, a resident of Kasargod. “The MAASH volunteers were a huge support during those challenging times. I was worried about the safety of my family, but [the MAASH volunteers] offered very good advice and were always just a call away. After recovering from Covid, I too decided to work as a volunteer at a ward-level vigil committee.” The success of the Kasargod project has led Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to extend the programme across Kerala—today, teachers across the state actively participate in promoting the state’s IEC programmes against Covid.

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