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Teaching Underprivileged Children And The Need For Inclusion: Are We Missing Something?

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By Aman Venkateswaran:

There is no shortage of laws in our country to protect children; to make sure that they are included in society in a positive way. There is a law against child labour, against child beggary, and an act for free education. Yet, we only have to look around to see the conditions in which children live and how they are exploited.

teaching for inclusion

There are many organisations that work with underprivileged children; towards their inclusion in society. Some support academics, others introduce arts and sports while others provide employment opportunities. They all have the same overall objective: to provide the input that will build the skills of disadvantaged children so they can lead better lives.

My work with a couple of such initiatives, working with street children or those in extremely impoverished situations, led me to think about such interventions. I have realised that there are no quick fixes to inclusion. It is not about a particular skill or education or counselling. It is about all of these. The more privileged amongst us are able to understand and use the mathematics, physics, history and other subjects that we learn only when we have a certain confidence and feel good about ourselves. For children, whose lives are so complex and difficult, the psychological-social link becomes even more important. Can teaching children only a skill or art or sport; or education in itself, shift their thinking patterns, and therefore their action? And I wonder if their thinking and actions cannot be influenced, how can a meaningful change in life happen with an academic lesson or skill? A sport or art is perhaps only a tool through which a connection can be made with another person, and broader lessons learnt. Can the sport or art be an end in itself?

I have been teaching music to some children who had formerly lived on the streets. I have also been involved in starting a cricket league with children who came from very poor homes. The music lessons and the cricket league went well. Most children enjoyed the music sessions which they learnt well; the cricket league was a big success. In fact, several children from the home where I taught music would gather when a ‘class’ was in session. The music classes created a happy environment. There was an assumption that these would be a useful introduction to their lives; provide an opportunity that otherwise they may not have. That assumption seemed certainly true; it introduced a new art, opportunity for entertainment, values of competition and discipline. But what I sadly found through some of my experience was that introducing an art or sport, though very valuable in itself, was not always changing deeper thought processes. If anything, it was my own thinking and perspective that changed much more as a result of these interactions.

I wondered if making a difference in someone’s life, working towards including them in society in a positive way, would need a deeper understanding of their life context than what we attempt to do. For example, enabling children who have lived on the streets, to learn and use a skill, probably first requires processing many of the influences from the life on streets that have become a part of them. After all, we ourselves learn better from teachers that we connect with, and less so from teachers that we do not connect with.

It needs something beyond the particular teaching agenda to understand who the person is, where they are coming from and why they think or act in a certain way. It needs an approach that first makes them feel better about themselves, before imparting knowledge or a skill. Could this really be done by breezing in and out of their lives?

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  1. mehak nayyar

    how about taking an initiative from the local sir?
    means whether its an urban area or poor one, u can always see poor children beg on the side of the roads and crossings…we can just start an initiative where we can adopt such children and give them some of the fortunate facilities like education,food,clothing or shelter…we can even make the plans of collection of funds from the govt and can go with appointing some youths in each city who can monitor the workings. and of course we can take the help of the media and publications which will be very useful in creating a an impact on the people and they can even donate generously. I AM SURE SIR WITH “THIS ONE STEP WILL BE ENOUGH TO CHANGE THE SITUATION”. so lets start..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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