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Our Education System Is All About Facts, Numbers And Dates. No One Asks ‘Why’

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By Haryax Pathak:

Hi there! Today, we are going to have a nice talk. So, let’s start.

I want to talk about our prevalent education system.

To me it’s not a system, it’s a code. One code that is applied to everyone, and then, copies of the same programme are generated. Some programmes function, some don’t. And that is what is wrong with it.

I recently read a letter that a school student wrote to the HRD ministry. He said today’s education system is promoting a rat race in which the winner (of the race) gets a six figure income. Bang on point. However, that’s not the only thing I’m going to focus in here. I have a lot more to say.

The rat race he is talking about is inevitable. If not in school, one will certainly face it later on in life. I’m facing it in college. But a school student should not have to face it. Schools constitute the base for any individual. It is where every vice and virtue is obtained. It is the defining foundation for an individual’s character, let alone his knowledge and intelligence. Isn’t it pathetic that today, a student has more vices than virtues, ultimately defeating the aim of this system with zero-intelligence? Students have the knowledge but only from textbooks.

Ask any student – when did the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occur? And they’ll rightly tell you – August 6 and August 9, 1945. They’ll also tell you it was America, responsible for the bombings because that’s what they read in their textbooks.

Now, this piece of information and the details about the incident, do they make any difference to you? Facts, numbers and dates. I don’t think they mean anything. But I do have some questions about the same incident, which mean a lot to me. Which I’m sure will mean a lot to you too.

I ask why did America have to use the atomic bomb in the first place?
I ask why was the second bomb dropped three days later when the whole world was still measuring the effects of the first one.
I ask why did those innocent people lose their lives for no fault of their own?

I have many more. But I assume you get the gist. These are the issues a student must be concerned with, getting to know the ‘why’s behind such things. But rarely does someone come ahead with such questions. And if he does, he doesn’t get the answer. All he is told is, remember the dates and the numbers. They are part of your course for the exam. Don’t bother about anything else.

We need to cultivate their thinking capabilities while we still can. School is the one place where it is possible. During school, the base is built. That’s when you can mould it. You cannot alter a building’s foundation after building its top floor.( If you think you can do it, well, either you are a high-level optimist or a really bad architect!!)

So, now that we are making the students think, what do we want them to think about? (Apart from exams, of course.) We want them to think on how to be not only a good student, but also a good human being.

Nobody likes villains (except Heath Ledger’s Joker). Children are taught Ramayana and told to be like Lord Ram, not Ravana. Well, I have something which might change your views.

Ravana was an asura. True. He got that from his mother, who was an asura, his father was a Brahman. But very few know that Ravana was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. And he was also a staunch follower of his principles as a Brahmin as well. Everyone knows how Lord Ram and his army built the Ramsetu to cross the sea to Lanka and brought an end to Ravana. But apparently, it could not have been possible without Ravana himself. Here’s how. Lord Ram was a Kshatriya, a warrior and only a Brahmin could build Ramsetu. And it was Ravana who helped Ram lay the foundation stone for it (a ritual which is required to be performed by a Brahmin). Ravana knew that the building of Ramsetu would mean his demise. But he also believed that he had a greater duty towards God as a Brahmin. He conducted the ritual despite the imminent threat.

This is a story not many people are aware of. Ravana wasn’t a bad guy. His only fault was his asura descent. My aim here is to highlight the fact that Ravana fulfilled his duty towards his God and stayed true to his principles. That is what makes him a good guy. And this is what children need to be taught. Principles. Duties. Not just the ones that are written in their social studies book, but the ones that make them a good human being first.

Japan has a unique education system. The starting few years of school, education is all about teaching the children moral values and sculpting them into good human beings. Education is not just about marks and grades. They matter, yes. But knowledge is a must. But it is also about how we are preparing the future generation of our country for the challenges that lie ahead. They need to be equipped, not only with facts but also with skills. Not only with memory, but also with ability. We read about terror attacks and shootouts every day. If you teach a child how to use a gun, he’s going to use a gun. Teach him to use his mind, he’ll use his mind.

The ideal system would not only impart knowledge but also cultivate wisdom. Knowledge will follow, but wisdom comes inherently.

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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.

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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