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The Only Ones Benefitting From Our ‘Ratta-Lagao’ Education Are Coaching Centres

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At the launch of the second edition of Smart India Hackathon 2018, (an initiative by the HRD Ministry), the Hon’ble HRD Minister rightfully pointed out that students have become slaves of coaching institutes, and that these institutes promote rote learning. He further added, “Very few teachers like to be asked questions and this has prevented overall understanding of subjects and learning… This is the reason coaching centres are getting stronger.

All though I realized that the Hon’ble Minister is referring to the coaching centres which advertise getting into IITs and IIMs, reading the content left me with profound thoughts as to why parents and students opt, and rely, on coaching institutes. Being a product of a coaching institute myself, where I studied for 3 years (classes 8, 9, and 10), I question myself as to why I and all my fellow batch mates opted for coaching.
To my mind, I was schooled in the best school in my vicinity with all the facilities, academics and extracurricular activities that can help students in all-round development. However, our lectures were time-bound and there was a huge syllabus to be completed. Most of the time, the teachers would focus on completing the syllabus and ignore everything else. Hence, there was a dire need of coaching institutes which offered everything related to academics, and many students would completely rely on these institutes.

So who sets the syllabus? The Government? Since I studied from Maharashtra State Board, it was the Education Department of the State of Maharashtra (as printed in our textbooks).

The syllabus is an epitome of promoting rote learning and coaching classes are a reliable source to learn well and vomit in our papers. Because eventually, your percentage is just a product of your rote learning and the passport to your college admissions. So why would I bother to understand concepts when, eventually, I don’t have to think, I just have to mug up? Why would students bother to pay attention in school or participate in any activity, when them and their parents know well that they just have to aim for that perfect score to get into the desired Institution?

A school or a college can provide the best facilities, remarkable faculties, and infrastructure. However, they certainly do not have any autonomy regarding the syllabus. To my mind, educational reforms are a need of the hour which every Government in power has always neglected. The Government comes up with different programs and initiatives, asking the youth to contribute. But how would one feel that sensitivity towards any cause, when in school most of us never did critical thinking – just rote learning aiming for a perfect score? We fail to understand that everything is interrelated and that success is born out of interdependence.

We need to understand as a nation that education is an important component of life, after health, and it is crucial to impart sensible education. Institutes may be trying hard to provide exposure to all students; however, they only ensure the development of a few bright students who accept the fact that they have to learn in a rote manner and clear the exam. But what about the other students in the classroom? When they enter college life or professional life, they end up discouraged, because what they have learnt so far has nothing to do with their practical job. This is a common problem faced by the youth in the nation.

It’s high time that the Government introduces educational reforms and appoints educators and retired academicians to design and evaluate the curriculum every academic year. In this volatile world which is constantly changing, it is imperative to appoint academicians to administer the reforms that are implemented. It is essential that the Government partners up with universities and provides opportunities to implement what students learn in a classroom. So that education has value, and every student becomes an ambassador for the right to education. So that every student feels responsible and understands the magnitude of being educated and not just literate.

We are known as a sensitive nation, and we are easily offended. However, it’s time that we impart sensible education and be sensible, conscious citizens.

Education without values is a complete waste. It’s not just the Government, the school authorities, or the teachers – we all need to contribute to this as parents and students by enjoying what we learn, and I hope that the Government introduces reforms in which moral values and character development are given priority.

Lastly, Let us remember the words of Margaret Mead, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

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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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