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How One Tweet Inspired Me To Leave My IT Job And Become A Teacher

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By Pradeep Shetty:

In January, 2014, I saw a tweet from historian Ramachandra Guha that really inspired me. It was about the great pride he felt for his nephew Krishna, who had just started Avanti Learning Centres, to teach bright students from low-income backgrounds. “His (Krishna’s) teacher-grandfather would have been even prouder,” Mr Guha tweeted.

This got me really thinking. I had always envisioned taking up teaching full time after gaining a decade of work experience across sectors. But now I asked myself – if my ultimate aim is to be a teacher, why wait? Will working in the corporate sector teach me to be a better teacher? My answer was ‘no’. So, I left my IT job and joined Avanti. And just like that, I found my life’s purpose. And happiness.

I started off teaching kids in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Mangalore. These children were mostly from rural parts of Dakshina Kannada, and they were hardworking and compassionate. They showered upon me much love and affection, which is very hard to see in any other profession. One day while playing basketball with the students, I twisted my left ankle very badly and couldn’t move for a week. The students brought food from the mess to my room every day and cajoled me into taking medicines, from time to time. I’ll never forget my students’ kindness. That is when I decided I’m going to be a teacher for life.

An Elite Squad

After a year or so, I gradually moved on to a role, which involves managing teachers across Karnataka and creating an environment where teachers can perform to their full potential. We teach in Toranagallu, Bengaluru, Hubli-Dharwad, Coorg, Tumkur, Hassan and Mysore and my goal is to reach every district of Karnataka over the next five years.

My team of teachers is my greatest motivation and it is heartening to see graduates from the top colleges of the country, come to teach in all these places. Some of them have worked in top companies in the world, but like me felt that there was something missing in their life. That’s when they switched over to Avanti to teach. They wanted to make a difference at the grassroots, and enjoy their contribution in building human and social capital for a resurgent India. These teachers make me believe that the younger generation of our country is in safe hands.

My Journey Of Teaching

My own journey of teaching began with my love for storytelling. During engineering and MBA, whenever we had free time, I would teach random topics to my classmates using stories. My classmates came to love this and wanted more of this.

I notice that students, too, are always attentive when a good story is being told. How you introduce a topic and build a story in a language they understand, matters. I also believe that if you can inspire students to learn, you’ll be surprised at what they can learn on their own. This is important because you can only teach them limited things in a limited time. But if you can inspire them to learn on their own, there is no limit to learning. In other words get the students on to the driving seat and get out of their way!

Calling More Teachers

Today, there are many examples of wonderful teachers both in the private and government system. The problem is that they are overwhelmed. Their work is not just teaching subjects but in many cases changing social behaviour. For instance, in North Karnataka, I was shocked to learn from a school principal in Bellary that most girls are married off by the age of 18 and they are taken out of the school for this purpose. In fact, the percentage of women married by the time they were 18 in Karnataka stood at 45% in 2011. To fight this practice, the teachers and principals of schools here are counselling parents and the elders of the villages about the harm it does to the girls.

Another problem that is dogging our education system is students going behind marks rather than learning life skills and concepts. It is a problem of such a scale that a handful of people can’t solve it. What we need is, lots and lots of good people joining the teaching profession. After all, the subjects and the topics, which we learn become immaterial and useless after a point of time, and it is the values we imbibe that are more meaningful for life.

I believe that if we as a group of teachers are able to inspire others to become teachers, then we have done a wonderful job. Furthermore, when it comes to choosing a profession, if my students think of teaching as their first choice, that would make this teacher truly happy!

Featured and banner image shared by Pradeep Shetty

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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