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Modern Education Taught Us Nothing Apart From Plagiarism

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Let’s imagine a certain scenario. You have been gifted a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle. You would take a look at the pieces, put every piece in the right place and form the final image.

However, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be done in the education system of which I was a part. According to the system, every student was supposed to know the dimensions of each piece by heart. They had to know the ‘angle of indention’ of each piece, with and without considering the parallax error. With this knowledge, the students were supposed to write an entrance exam. It would often contain questions out of the context, like, “What is a puzzle supposed to denote?” It would scare the students out of their wits. Around one-fourth of the intelligent children would get selected for their commendable performance. Even if you ask them the dimension of each puzzle even in the middle of the night, they would give you the answer in a jiffy but would maintain their silence if questioned what exactly they learnt from the process.

Most of you might be wondering why is there a test in the first place. Well, it is to select kids who get to finally solve the puzzle. What could’ve been done in a matter of days has been unnecessarily elaborated into a futile and exhaustive process. This, my friends, sums up the Indian education system for you.

I have passed out from class 12 from the Bio-Maths stream. After learning the science subjects day in and day out, I gave my exams and got pretty decent marks. In the end, when I finally contemplated on what I’d learned, it finally dawned on me that all I had learned was the art of plagiarism. When asked to define an atom I would blindly say “the smallest particle of a chemical element that can exist.” I never took the time to sit down and analyse what the statement actually meant.

Let’s take a look at the intellectuals in ancient Greece like Plato and Aristotle. They never had to crack entrances like JEE by studying monotonously for 16 to 17 hours a day and pass out of IIT for ‘prestige’ and be branded a genius. They spent their days observing things and formulating their own ideas , instead of plagiarising an already existing one. If you ask a student who has studied the books written by either of the intellectuals to come up with a new idea, you may realise the very inability of our education system to produce geniuses. If you ask the same person what is the value of π² he may give you the answer in a jiffy.

Take a look at the different political systems of the world. Almost all of them came to existence before the 20th century. We still rely on such systems in a world where the conflicts are ever emerging without even attempting to draw up a new political system suited for the present intolerant generation. We criticise our leaders for their folly when it comes to making decisions. But, we never consider alternate, foolproof mechanisms which may prove to be the ultimate solution.

So, now comes the question; “Where have we gone wrong?” The answer to it is very simple. We failed to take a look at life from a broader perspective. For Aristotle and Plato, knowledge was something they acquired due to the curiosity they had about the world. For us, education is something we acquire for getting a job that pays well. They acquired knowledge  as they had the urge to do so, through observing and understanding the drawbacks of the different things they came across. We, on the other hand, study in institutions designed long back to produce workers for the industries. We practically re-live each day and follow the same monotonous cycle of eating, studying, sleeping (only if it is highly necessary) and to repeat the entire process on a daily process. This goes on until one day we forget our role as an actor on the stage, i.e., the world. This is that period when our parents, uncles, aunties and even the tea-seller down the street can be classified as Facebook and Instagram addicts and blame the present day technology for aiding in ruining our lives. We become specimens being compared to that one lucky boy/girl who by some stroke of luck was very well suited for this ‘system of ours’ and made it big in life. In the end, we become somewhat like the fish who was mocked for eternity due to his inability to climb a tree. We are classified as geniuses on the basis of how efficiently we plagiarise. Apart from the art of plagiarising, we are taught pretty much nothing. We aren’t taught  how to respect a woman or the art of tolerance towards people who have different beliefs and mannerisms from us. Shashi Tharoor says, Get our kids not just to have their heads filled full of facts and textbook materials and teacher’s lectures … that gives you a well filled mind … what you need is a well formed mind.” A mind, which was never supposed to be restricted to the books that were being studied when it came to making decisions.

I’d like to conclude by reminding all of you to not limit the vision of your life and rather take a look at it from a different and broader perspective. A perspective, that doesn’t limit learning to school alone but expands it to every walk in life. A perspective, in which we aren’t driven by social stigma or money, but our inner compassion and our thirst for knowledge. A perspective, where we finally realise our role as the group of people who are finally able to understand their very purpose in life and pave way for millions of children for doing so as well. I’d like to give a standing ovation to the ones who have succeeded in doing so and are on their path to create and be a part of history. I’m talking about you. Yes, you are the only ones capable of finally changing our education system and in making the world a better place. Cheers!

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Image Source: Twin Work & Volunteer/ Flickr

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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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