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‘Good Degree, Job And Match’ – The “Goals” We Have Reduced Education To

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By Poonam Yadav:

“Get up otherwise you’ll be late,” “Have you completed your homework? Don’t forget your notebook.”

Every child has grown up listening to these lines during their school days. Parents, dada-dadi, everyone is involved in getting the little one getting ready for school as if he/she is a soldier going for war. If one is from a joint family then it’s a huge mess, other little soldiers also have to get their armours ready to fight their daily battles of going to school.

The news that a home-schooled girl got selected by MIT after being rejected by our prestigious IITs for not having undergone formal schooling somehow motivated me to pen down my thoughts.

First of all, I would like to discuss school. For me, it was always fun. I was in love with my school. I was a complete geek and a bookworm. I loved going to school and taking exams. I always admired the structure and the planning part, as I had to do nothing. Everything was already prepared; I just had to follow the instructions.

But over the years after a lot of introspection, I realised the loopholes in the education I received when I was in school. I realised that despite having an excellent academic record I can’t consider myself to be a knowledgeable person. My education has not taught me to think critically, it has not taught me to question things (at least my school education, as it laid the foundation, so irrespective of how good higher education was, the same pattern continued).

Despite the awards, the accolades, I never felt happy. There was this constant feeling of emptiness that told me that I lacked something. In college, I tried to come out of this shell of mine, tried to question things. I made a few attempts, and it felt good. After some time the same pattern of me sitting idle and consuming whatever was given to me continued. Initially, I used to wonder if it was me who was at fault, as I wasn’t attentive and confident enough to ask questions. But, later on, I realised that somehow the kind of schooling, the system of which I was a product of, was also at fault.

So what is it about my schooling that I am complaining about? There are a few things that I have noticed not just from my schooling experience but also from my volunteering and work experience. The common thing, which I came across in schools is that the focus is more on cramming information & facts than on developing critical thinking.

Schools are being converted into institutions that produce passive learners. This is the situation prevalent in almost all government and public schools, and only a handful of elite private schools can boast of being centres of creative learning. From morning to afternoon, everything is planned and structured, there is very less space for flexibility (there might be a few exceptions, not denying that). More focus is on textbook learning, less on practical knowledge.

Whatever is written in the book is the ultimate truth, something which cannot be challenged (as if it’s the Laxman Rekha that can’t be crossed), and the students imbibe this.

Subconsciously, they start accepting what is being served to them, and very few of them raise questions, as inquisitiveness is not promoted. This is what I am focusing on here. To put it simply; schools need to be more flexible. They should stress more on practical learning, and on the development of critical thinking, rather than completion of course work which most teachers still stress upon.

When one thinks of a school, it’s a place you go to get an education. It’s a social institution which produces educated, responsible and sensible citizens. Our parents send us to schools so that we can get educated.

Wait, wait, hold on, we do need to talk about our parents and their expectations from us, our schools, teachers and so on and so forth. When one asks any parent, what do they mean by ‘Education’, the typical reply that one can expect is, that the child should be able to get a “Good Degree”, so that they can get a “Good Job”, so that he/she can eventually get a “Good Match” (Marriage of course, as if we can escape that).

So in a nutshell the above mentioned are the three goals of education, according to our dear parents (varies from parent to parent, not targeting anyone). There’s also a lot of comparison with others (Sharma Ji’s son is getting a good package, Gupta Ji’s son is in that company etc.).

But what our great philosophers and leaders have said and preached is in contradiction with what our parents have been teaching us all this while. I am not saying that they are wrong, what I am saying is that they are only focusing on one facet of education. It’s not just a tool for personal enhancement (status and money), but it’s something which can be used for social upliftment and to bring about widespread social change.

I have seen people leaving behind their lucrative jobs and starting NGO’s to bring about some positive change in the society. There are others who along with their studies have worked on different platforms and are doing great work in the areas of gender equality, domestic violence, LGBT issues etc.

Many of my classmates have been associated with organisations that provide education and free counselling services to students from remote villages and small towns. I have always wanted to use my education and skills to empower others, to be of help to those who need it the most.

During my college days, through one such organisation, I got the opportunity to provide tele-counselling to students in Jharkhand. Though I volunteered for a short duration, it gave me immense pleasure. Another opportunity which I got was through NCERT. I went for a data collection project to Uttarakhand and met with 200-250 students of around 7-8 government schools. Though I was there for data collection with a planned questionnaire, the informal interaction and the learning space that got created there, benefited both the students and me immensely.

So, what I am saying is I am in support of the various CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects being launched by different corporate houses, but I am not sure about their success rates. I have been to a few corporate organisations, and I have seen employees sipping on coffee and paying minimal attention to workshops that introduce different CSR projects, so in a way, I’m also not too sure.

I understand it’s tough to really think about charity and social work after 10-12 hours of work. You are completely drained, and there is a family to look after. But there are a thousand ways of doing something good. Even a gesture is enough. I think if one’s education has brought about change in one’s thinking, then that’s enough.

In the end, I just want to state that, parents need to focus on making their children competent rather than pressurising them to be a part of the rat race. It’s important that they stop comparing their children with others, measuring their worth in terms of the package that they get. Let education be a tool for both personal and social betterment.

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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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