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Sibal-crafting Education in India

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By Piyush Panigrahi:

On June 24, 2009, the Yashpal Committee, headed by scientist Yashpal suggested a number of recommendations including the removal of the University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), National Council for Teacher Education (NCERT) and Distance Education Council. The committee report also recommended that IITs and IIMs be turned into full-fledged universities and to introduce a national test on the lines of GRE open to all aspirants and held more than once a year. Instead of all regulatory bodies, the report suggests a Commission for Higher Education and Research (CHER) to be set up to govern the higher education in the country.

In the report, the panel, mentioned that jurisdiction of Medical Council of India (MCI), Bar Council of India (BCI) and others needs to restricted to administrative jobs only and that their academic responsibilities need to administered by universities. Expressing concern over the spreading of engineering and management colleges that have “largely become business entities and dessiminating poor quality education,” the committee expressed grief over the growth of deemed universities and suggested a complete ban on further grant of such status.

In response, on July 4, 2009, Kapil Sibal-headed education ministry released the Action Plan enlisting the following goals:

Legislative Initiatives

  1. An autonomous overarching authority for Higher Education and Research based on the recommendations of Yashpal Committee and National Knowledge Commission;
  2. A law to prevent, prohibit and punish educational malpractices;
  3. A law for mandatory assessment and accreditation in higher education through an independent regulatory authority;
  4. A law to regulate entry and operation of Foreign Educational Providers;
  5. A law to establish a Tribunal to fast-track adjudication of disputes concerning stake holders (teachers, students, employees and management) in higher education;
  6. A law to amend the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, to strengthen the Commission;
  7. A law to amend the Copyright Act, 1957 to address the concerns relating to copyrights and related rights of the various stake holders

Policy Initiatives

  1. Formulation of a ‘Brain-Gain’ policy to attract talent fiom across the world to the existing and new institutions;
  2. Launching of a new Scheme of interest subsidy on educational loans taken for professional courses by the Economically Weaker Students;
  3. Strengthening and expansion of the Scheme for Remedial Coaching for students from SC/ST/minority communities, in higher education;
  4. ‘Equal Opportunity Offices’ to be created in all universities for effective implementation of schemes for disadvanaged sections of the society;
  5. A new policy on Distance Learning would be formulated

On September 11, 2009, “The agenda for schools is 100 per cent complete. Now you tell me the agenda for the next 100 days,” asserted Kapil Sibal. He insisted that his ministry had not only met the 100-day targets but even exceeded them in some cases. The ministry, for instance, had sanctioned 150 women’s hostels in higher educational institutions in districts with significant population of weaker sections besides releasing Rs 45 crore for it as against a target of 100. Similarly, Sibal had announced the review of the functioning of the existing private deemed universities and then extended the review to public deemed universities too. The review committee had gone through the presentations of 81 out of 92 private deemed universities.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009, was passed within the 100-day period. Besides, the Class X examination had been made optional. The current system of marking was replaced by a grading system.

In higher education, Sibal had announced the setting up of an autonomous overarching authority for higher education and research based and a draft note had been circulated for inter-ministerial consultations. The ministry’s target for mandatory assessment and accreditation in higher education through an independent regulatory authority had been met with a draft legislation and concept note having been made though some states had expressed concerns regarding the autonomy of the accreditation process. Sibal also introduced an amendment Bill to further amend the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act.

The ministry had also announced 15 new central universities, that have been established with the appointments of the first vice-chancellors, except in Himachal Pradesh. Academic reforms like semester system and credit transfers have also been implemented by some universities.

While the picture seems rosy, it is necessary to explore whether his ideas are applicable to poor, downtrodden and illiterate section of Indian population. As envisioned by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in 1950, Article 45 of the Indian Constitution stated, “The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.” The state never endeavored to provide free and compulsory education to Children even after six decades. Only in 1993 Supreme Court of India recognised primary education as a fundamental right. Later in 2002, the government through the 86th Constitutional Amendment arrogated the right of providing free and compulsory education to itself, thus making the guaranteed right by the apex court dependent on the state. A wide gap remains between enrolment and completion rates, especially for children from poorest households and marginalised groups in rural areas and urban slums.

In a new unveiling of education agenda, Sibal talks about a common entrance exam for engineering and medicine aspirants after Class XII, a full-fledged curriculum for value education for schools, mandatory sports classes across schools, and insurance and housing schemes for 60 lakh school teachers – these are among the new key initiatives HRD Minister Kapil Sibal announced as part of his next one-year agenda. Briefing the media after a meeting of the State Education Ministers in New Delhi, Sibal said the government wanted to reduce the multiplicity of entrance examinations for entry to higher education.

image: http://www.academics-india.com/Yashpal-committee-report.htm

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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