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Things You Might Not Know About The Indian Education Scenario – Will Shock You!

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By Ana Kandwal:

Michael Ward, Senior Advisor for the UK department of International Development India country program, stated that education is the doorway to a wider world. The future of a country on the path to development has education as one of its components that contributes largely to the growth and the development process. India is the second largest education system in the world, however, in spite of being the second largest education provider in the world, a huge question over the quality of education remains unanswered.

India’s literacy rate has seen a rise i.e. it has risen from 64.38% (2001) to 74.04% (2011). The government has been making large efforts to spread education and it is observed in the budget of 2011-2012 where the allocation of fund was increased by 24% and the consecutive year saw an increase by 21.7% for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and 29% for the Rashtriya Madhaymik Shiksha Abiyan. Moreover, for easier access of funds for students, a credit Guarantee fund has also been set up by the government. However, according to 2013-2014 budgets, India is spending only 3.85% of the total national budget on the education sector. This has resulted in the government being critiqued by many education reformists. Anita Bose, daughter of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s said that India will benefit if it spends more on education and social welfare rather than on its defense for dealing with any possible external threat.

Right to Education (RTE), which came into being during April 2010, is a fundamental right for all those children who are in the age group of 6-14 years. Through this act, the government is entitled to provide education to every child up to the eight grade, free of cost and irrespective of class and gender. RTE is the first legislation in the world that lays such duties on the government.

This is due to the fact that there are nearly 220 million children in the specified age group, and out of which nearly 9.2 million of the children are out of school. This accounts for 4.6% of the total children.

Even though the recent budgets seem to have been contributing largely towards the growth of the country’s educational growth, but due to various socio-economic factors, the standard and quality of education in India continue on to be poor. Moreover, it is the process of implementation of the policy that has raised many questions and caused serious problems.

Even though the RTE makes certain obligations on the government towards the children, rural children continue on to be deprived of  quality education due to several factors such as lack of competent and committed teachers, non-availability of text books or teaching materials, refusal of teachers to teach in rural areas, unqualified teaching staff etc.

Moreover, the efforts of the government to control the dropout rates via the mid-day meals has also failed to produce any positive result and the dropout rates continue to go up. This has been mostly observed due to misappropriating of funds meant for schemes, mismanagement, lack of seriousness amongst the concerned authorities, fund diversion and lack of awareness among the parents. Moreover, the mid-day meals have been found to be of sub-standard quality as well.

Coming to the infrastructure of these rural school, it has been found that 82% of these schools require a necessary renovation, books are not available and the teachers are mostly absent. This has been so concluded in the Public Report on Basic Education (PROBE).

data

Also, though the government has taken several efforts in the rural areas to start anganwadis. This is largely done to firstly reduce infant mortality rate and secondly to impart education to the children from the right age. However, it has been observed that in many places there is either an absence of such institutions or even if they exist, there is the absence of the required resources. Moreover, at times it is observed that the human resource required are either under qualified or happens to be local women who work on the basis of their experience.

Another major problem of the Act is the “continuous evaluation of children’s understanding of knowledge and his/her ability to apply the knowledge”. Now this comes in complete contradiction with the ‘No Holding Back’ policy of the Act. On one side the Act says that no child would be demoted till the completion of elementary education but on the other side it talks about continuous evaluation of knowledge. The act also does not define what is knowledge? During this evaluation if a child fails to gain knowledge or ability to apply the knowledge, then what would be the next step? The Act does not have any such provisions under it. Also, talking about the evaluation, the act doesn’t define as to how, what would be the procedure and on what basis the child is to be evaluated?

Also a large number of private schools, which solely prefer taking the elite and the rich and middle class children, oppose this act especially on the basis of the ‘No holding back’ policy and also on the quality. Private schools mostly function not for imparting a quality education but rather to compete in the race to be the best school. For this, they admit students who are knowledgeable and bright and completely ignore those who come from the deprived section. At times, even the middle class children face huge problems. This comes in complete violation of the act.

One critical aspect I would like to make about the act is over the ‘No holding back’ policy and ‘ensuring quality education’. How does the no holding back policy ensure quality education in schools? When one is promoting the continuous failing students to the higher class, students who cannot read and write even basics at times, then how does quality education being imparted is being ensure? This is the reason we observe that the dropout rates usually increase immediately on a very high side post 8th class. This is another reason as to why the private schools oppose the act and refuse to take children from the marginalized section of the society.

However, these are just few of the aspects of the issues of rural education which are now being looked into by the government. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is shifting its focus from universal inclusion to universal quality. Schedule tribes and schedule caste children are now being largely included into the class IX and X by handing out pre-matriculating scholarships.

Also, when one looks into the issue of education and its spread, we need to look into the fact the different class and section of the society as well, especially the tribal section as education to them comes as a cultural shock as they live in a very basic environment and the concept of inclusiveness and modernisation is very unknown to them.

I would like to sum up by taking reference of Amartya Sen who regards that solution of all problems whether they are related to economy, development or population lies in education. Also, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (First Education Minister) stated that no programme for industry, science, and agriculture, commercial can be achieved without improvement of the human material which serves as the basis of the national wealth. Hence, education should be highly prioritized.

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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.

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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.

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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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