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A Student Of Ashoka University Questions The Need For Minimum Attendance

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By Simran Nandrajog:

While issues like political activism and curfew timings in Indian universities have been in the news for long, one thing that has become a topic for debate only recently is that of attendance.

Most institutes in India require a minimum attendance percentage to pass. Many universities have very high minimum attendance required to be eligible for examinations. Christ University and Indian Institute of Technology Madras have a minimum attendance requirement of 85 percent. These have not gone down well with most students and some faculty members, who argue that it is rigid, and doesn’t allow students to explore much beyond academics. It has also led to protests at universities like Christ. At Amity Law School, a student committed suicide recently because he was barred from appearing for his semester exams due to low attendance and alleged mental harassment by teachers regarding the same.

At Ashoka University located in the state of Haryana, the attendance policy of every subject varies according to the professor teaching it. While some courses like BSc Economics do not have any attendance requirements, foundation subjects, which are compulsory for all irrespective of the major subjects one chooses, allow between two to five free absences per semester. In the words of Manjari Sahay, member of the student government and Minister of Academic Affairs, there are three types of absences at Ashoka University- ‘authorised’- which is granted if one is representing the institute for various events, ‘unexcused’- which doesn’t require any justification, and ‘approved’- that is, absences granted due to an illness or emergency. When asked whether different courses should have different attendance rules, she answered, “Yes, since the university has granted autonomy to the professors to design the course material, therefore, they should have the freedom to make their own attendance rules as well.”

However, Manjari also adds that in the absence of any attendance policy, students might slack off, especially if a course isn’t engaging enough. Her colleague Manisha Sah echoes the same sentiment. According to her, some kind of rule needs to be in place or else most students will end up bunking. And while such students are satisfied with mandatory attendance policies, they want the system to be foolproof, such that no one can manipulate it. Shivangi Kejrewal, a second-year student, believes that while attendance prevents students from behaving irresponsibly, it should be such that no one can misuse it, which often happens with manual attendance, where students sign in for each other.

However, there are many who aren’t in favour of attendance policies. Krathika Parchani, a third-year economics student at Ashoka University says, “I don’t think an attendance policy is needed. If the lectures are good enough, students will turn up.” Maatangi Krishna, a student pursuing a major in psychology also supports the ‘no attendance’ argument. In her opinion, “In college, we are adults and are capable of making our decisions on whether we want to attend class or not. If students feel they know a course content enough and are capable of doing the assignments themselves, they can do something more productive in that time, say, auditing another course.” Another third-year student, Akbar Surani, argues that imposing attendance requirements on students, most of whom are adults, isn’t the right way to make them attend classes as it would be forcing them to do something they aren’t willing to. But, if at all attendance requirements are there, students should be given provision to make up for classes missed, such as marking a student present if he or she attends a guest lecture related to the course.

But does turning up for classes necessarily translate into good grades? Ritika TL, another undergraduate student at Ashoka, doesn’t feel so. According to her, “It is disrespectful to both professors and students to have someone who is not interested but is forced to sit in a class just because of attendance. Also, there are many students, who don’t turn up for classes, but get fantastic grades.” However, Anuradha Saha, professor of economics at the university, feels that classrooms are more than just for studying. She says, “Even in present times, in-person learning is more effective than online or textbook learning. Learning from teachers is not the sole reason why students should attend classes. Class attendance gets you in the habit of being punctual, the opportunity to interact with peers, picking skills of sitting and listening, note taking and at times even doodling.

Most students feel there shouldn’t be any attendance policies in place so that it is up to them whether they want to go for lectures or not. As long as the lectures are engaging, people are going to attend, irrespective of the limit on absences one can take. They feel that being mature adults, it is their responsibility, and not the institute’s, to ensure they attend classes in the long run.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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