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Why Delhi Govt’s Mega Parent-Teacher Meeting Was Its Best Idea Till Date

A massive Delhi government school building is like a fortress for families from the low-income neighbourhoods. It keeps the parents in awe and ensures that a wide gap is maintained between the school staff and the parents’ community. However, Delhi’s mega Parent Teachers Meeting (PTM) has a potential to transform these sarkari (government) fortresses into public-owned schools.

For the third time in the last two years, on September 1, Delhi’s government schools opened their doors to parents. Our team decided to meet some not-so shy parents who attended the mega PTMs in their ceremonial attires. A thousand parents were interviewed across the state with help from members of school management committee.

Research says that schools only require three bold steps to engage parents – ‘welcoming’, ‘honoring’ and ‘connecting’. The Delhi mega PTMs have aced the first step of ‘welcoming’. In the true spirit of a warm welcome, rangolis were prepared, personalised invitations were sent and school gates were decorated with welcome messages. When Babita, the mother of a child enrolled in the school couldn’t find the correct classroom, a high-school student escorted her to the correct room. There was tea, water and every little thing that would make them feel welcome.

The second step is ‘honouring’ the parents by recognising their efforts and importance the in child’s education. We came across teachers who exchanged phone numbers with parents encouraging them to stay in touch and teachers who had a list of standard complaints. When a curious parent inquired about his son, the young science teacher started explaining the importance of coming to school regularly, to drive home the point that his son needs to be more regular in school. As soon as the teacher took their first pause, the boy interrupted by saying, “I only missed the school once in last 7 months.” His father vouched for him.  There were teachers who did their homework and gave precise feedback to students based on their performance in the previous unit test. An absence of formal training and guidance on how to make parents feel honoured was felt. However, in roughly four to six minutes of parent-teacher interaction, the role of parent was either unrecognised or misinterpreted.

The third step of ‘connecting’ parents to educational outcomes seems like the end of a rainbow. This step requires inclusive policies to reconstruct the role of parents beyond monitoring the schools and being passive recipients of information. We need audacious principals and teachers who consider parents as partners to maximise learning outcomes for the students.

School factors are important for a student’s achievement but there are studies that claim that ‘parental effort is consistently associated with higher levels of achievement.’ Thus, while interviewing the 1000 parents who attended the PTM, we also tried to explore their key role in their child’s education.

Around 49% of the parents reported that they have occasional conversations with their child’s teachers. Almost 50% parents opted for regular PTMs and 20% demanded extra classes. There were 23% of parents who also asked for regular updates through phone calls and SMS services.

We asked parents about the kind of support they provide to their children to ensure learning after-school. We could gather varied responses ranging from finding tuition classes to playing simple word games. Almost 361 parents, more than one third, gave an unclear answer or indicated towards providing no academic support. The rest of the responses could be broadly categorised as the providers, the participators, and the encouragers.

The providers have ensured that the child has access to tuition books and other learning resources. Around 36% of parents sent their kids to tuition and 6% said that they make sure that the child has access to support books, stationeries, and the internet.

Interestingly, 33% of parents confirmed that they directly participate in their child’s learning activities. Checking note books and school dairies and discussing school related work were quite common. There were a couple of responses where unlettered parents sat with their children during homework hours. There were quite a few parents who played the direct role of a tutor at home and engaged with the child through learning games. The direct involvement in homework made us call them ‘the participators’. Also, 9% of parents said that their children got academic support at home from siblings and other family members.

We called 16% of parents ‘the encouragers’ as they reminded children about homework, woke them up early or dropped them to schools. Also, we believe these categories are not water-tight and the role of parents in after-school learning can be a combination of all three roles.

According to intuitive estimates of a few teachers and principals, the attendance of parents has increased over the last three meetings. It’s surely challenged the perceptions that parents from disadvantageous communities cannot be engaged in academic activities. There are parents like Reena, who came prepared with the specific agenda of delayed distribution of computer textbooks. There were parents like Shakuntla, an immigrant from UP working as a domestic help, who came with a little helplessness and lots of openness, claiming that she will do whatever the teacher recommends for her child. Mid-sized hoardings of SMC members displaying their contact details encouraging parents to reach out for help, indicates that there are parents who are willing to support other parents as well.

Celebrating the massive success of Mega PTM is important, but planning further can not be procrastinated. Policy makers, government bodies, educationists, and citizens now need to put their brains and hearts into ensuring that parents become partners in our mission to revamp public education.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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