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Our Education System Is So Messed Up, We Might As Well Shut Down All Schools

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”– Nelson Mandela.

Many of us would concur with this statement. Education is the shining beacon which paves the path to one’s glory and most importantly, one’s stomach. While a few of us are deciding between Harvard and Yale to fulfil the dream of becoming the next Sundar Pichai, a few of us sweat it out to procure a seat in the IITs which will set one up for life. There are others who fret about the lack of education that is still rampant throughout the country, and we wander around the country seeking to ‘enlighten’ the illiterate.

It is a noble cause, and I am very happy at the initiatives being taken to promote literacy. Whether these measures are any effective or not, remains a subject for another debate. The question is, isn’t it necessary to look into our educational system before proceeding to enrol others in it?

Now, many eyes would roll. Oh, there she is, another one to rant about the infamous Indian Education System. Well, I am not the first one to fiercely launch into a lengthy tirade on the idiosyncrasies and pitfalls of the system and nor will I be the last. However, this is not even about that.

It is not the grades, marks, ranks, exams or so. It is high time the spotlight be turned on to that which has been shrouded in the dark for too long. The quality of education. Are we imparting wisdom to the younger generation? Are we teaching them to be responsible and kind denizens? Every institute proclaims that they aim to produce socially, ethically, morally responsible citizens who would contribute to the betterment of the society. But, judging by what is happening today, we seem quite far away from civilisation.

Young kids being murdered inside washrooms, juvenile crimes, terrible incidents which adorn the front page of the newspapers and social media are enough to give even the stone-hearted sleepless nights. On a less violent note, “middle class” people are not entitled to fine dining, and we fight with our neighbours for river water.

Is this what we have reduced to? Setting buses aflame for something that can be sorted by debate within the four walls of a room? Or keep reminding of the socio-economic hierarchy and the thick bold line between the classes that one should never cross?

Under the banner of “freedom of expression”, it is uncommon not to see someone getting trolled for their words, actions or external appearances. There is not a single person who is spared the brunt of self-proclaimed critiques. I shudder to think that we are setting such a horrendous example to the next generation.  This is definitely not being broad-minded, as our society so proudly claims that we are on the path of. Rather, it is a refined manifestation of a clash of wills and jealousy which could reach egregious proportions, in comparison to the raw, fierce battles between warring kingdoms in the yesteryears.

Is this what we were taught? Is this what we are going to teach this generation?  We might as well shut down our schools. It is precisely this attitude – education as merely a gateway for joining the higher ranks of the economy and social status- which gives one the ultimate power to contribute (read: dominate) to the society, which has been one big factor to this sorry state of affairs.

I am not going to deny that education does do that, but it does a lot more too. Sitting through several years of “education ” in pursuit of fancy degrees doesn’t mean one is educated. That is merely being literate.

Speaking of corruption and other social evils, it is no longer the “uneducated morons” who indulge in such activities. Ragging and harassment of students resulting in their deaths, heinous incidents of raping of infants (how worse can this get?!) and gruesome murders splashing the front pages of the newspapers every other day. How many of the preparators are uneducated?

The sceptic would argue that they wouldn’t have received “proper” education. What sort of an education is that which doesn’t teach its students to respect human life and dignity? How can someone be cultured if they do not know how to be human?

Fine, forget the big picture. Look at our world. What happens within the walls of this microcosm? Ego, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, inferiority complex, fear, competitiveness – all evils of Pandora box. Politics in schools, colleges, workplaces – all microcosms of education – which breeds desperation don’t seem like the type of places of enlightenment and creativity.

Our ideas of education are warped. Twisted. We focus on coming first. Carving a niche by being on the top rung – it doesn’t matter how many people are pushed down in the process. It is amazing to see the lengths that people can go to make you feel an absolute loser once they get the slightest hint that you are on the right track. Friends turn enemies, and the whole world around you is keen on bringing you down.

Is this what education had taught us? Competition is good. “Healthy” competition is a means of bringing the best out of us. However, we, the hot-headed generation, pride ourselves in living our lives in the extreme- win by hook or crook.

If this is what education has taught us, it is already too late to retrospect. We are witnessing evolution in reverse gear. From savages to humans, we are slowly losing that what identified us as humans – humanity, emotions, compassion. If years of “excellent education” has taught us to become dysfunctional humans, we don’t have the right to look down at the illiterate at all.

It is we who are the ill-literate.

Echoing Aristotle’s words, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

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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 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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