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The Biggest Blunder Of Our Education System Is That It Doesn’t Teach Us About Failure

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Almost a century ago, Rabindranath Tagore wrote “Tota Kahani”, the story of a free-spirited parrot who would do nothing but hop, skip, fly and sing all day. A king ordered that the bird be ‘civilised’, and so it was put in a golden cage. So many instructions were forced down its throat that it soon forgot to sing, and then, could not even squawk. When it tried to fly, its wings were clipped. Soon the parrot died, with no sound, except for the rustle of books in its stomach.

The same is the case with our education system where students, who are exceptionally gifted in particular ways, are given a long book of rules and discipline, which presses them to lose faith that regular schools can nourish their creativity. What happens next is the production of lost and confused souls, only worrying about grades and degrees. The system is constantly failing in giving every student respect, responsibilities and challenges. It would be disastrous to mention that in our education system even students with 95% marks are made to feel like failures, as some of our top colleges stipulate for 100% marks to get an admission.

By mentioning failures, I never meant to tag anyone with those dehumanizing labels which when labelled, stay with us, lifelong and we stupidly start carrying those labels and begin accepting them. This is the biggest blunder committed by our education system. We have never been taught about failure, because the term is such that it crushes the confidence of oneself.

In this unsupportive environment, making a mistake leads to punishment. But believe me, failure means to earn an opportunity and find alternatives. Now when students hear or read such statements, they get stunned. The reason is unfortunately again our education system.

Our schools have never helped students to explore themselves and the world around them. They never even tried to make them understand failure and how to prepare for it. And when we actually fail, we are not able to cope with it and end up giving up on our learning process, which I believe is a lifelong project.

We must rescue education from the artificial and oppressive environment. A year ago, when I was in class 11, I was sitting in the classroom, and I did not understand why the bell had to ring so hard to shake us out of our current state and switch to another subject. The system is such that we can not even continue to explore something which we are actually interested in. The academic subjects and the life skills are at a threatening fence. Our knowledge is not evaluated.

In an eleven-minute long youtube video, Sonam Wangchuk, the founder of students’ educational and cultural movement of Ladakh ( SECMOL ), defines how a school campus should be like. He says and I quote, “A school should be like a country with a true democracy. With its own elected government.” He further adds a brief description of his school where he says, students run schools official newspaper namely Campus Times, and also schools official radio channel. They are given portfolios, responsibilities and are asked to manage different things. In his school, students plan, set goals and execute them and later report it to the respective teacher.

Another is Sawaraj university, located 15 kms from Udaipur city in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. The university was born in 2010. The focus is on self-designed learning which engages youth to identify their hearts vision and engages them to in developing the skills they need to manifest those visions. People who join it are called, “Khojj’s”. The university does not ask or give a degree because they believe that a degree is the biggest threat and disease to the human soul.

In the 1970s, Austrian philosopher Ivan Ilich wrote a series of essays critiquing institutions of industrialised culture, including schools. His book, deschooling society, advocated self-directed education. A few years later, American educator John Cadwell Holt coined the term ‘ unschooling’ to refer to child-led education.

Self-directed education is a must, so that we can enhance our life skills. Students at school should be given a chance to apply what they are learning. Sharing my experience at school, I have never seen any teacher approaching us for an interaction tour. Leave alone giving a chance to talk to people of different walks of life to better understand our existence.

But there is a need to change the system. Students should be provided with a platform where they can publish their thoughts. In fact, students should be made partners in running the schools. This can be done by introducing them to the practical world, giving them responsibilities and after a certain experience, make them teach other junior students who are yet to perform such activities.

Meeting new people, watching documentaries, playing outdoors and reading extensively are just some other ways to get a better education, if not best. The assertion that school is unnatural should be abolished. Many students think that it is unreasonable and stressful for us to remain seated at desks for hours at a stretch. But this could be changed by introducing a new method and above all understand the importance of play and conversation in the mental health of a child.

The major responsibility is to prepare students for what’s coming and not for what has been done.

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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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