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6 Things That Should Be On Prakash Javadekar’s To-Do List in 2018

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These are the times when our national debates centre around the “saffron wave” that has swept the nation. They centre around agitations against films and conspiracy theories about a dead film star. Sometimes we move to bans and scams as well. But what unites them all is the D-word: “development”. There is always someone who would talk about the development Modi Sarkar has brought in, without divulging the details of this “development”. While most of us are aware that such and such schemes exist, there seems to be a general lack of awareness about their implementation or consequences. Health, Education, Agriculture, Rural development, etc have somehow disappeared from the national discourse.

This is my attempt to bring to the notice of the MHRD, the “development” they could do in the education sector.

Allocation Of Adequate Funds To Research Centres Across The Country

The current government has, time and again in the last two years, rolled back on funds and cut down on seats in centres for research at several universities. The UGC had sent out circulars to some centres which were set up under the 11th five-year plan (2007-12) and renewed in the 12th five-year plan, saying that their planned funding would end on March 31st, 2017. Centres like Studies for Discrimination and Exclusion in JNU, Centre of Excellence for Human Rights Education, School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance, Centre for Advanced Studies for Women and Centre for Inclusion and Exclusion at TISS were the ones getting affected.

However, owing to the widespread protests and petitions sent to the UGC, it decided to continue with its funding for another year. But how will extending the plan for just a year resolve the larger issue facing the domain of research in India? The government needs to realise the need for research in social sciences and humanities which helps generate efficiency in policymaking, improve international relations, and better the quality of higher education and bring out an overall growth of the social sector.

Emphasis On Village-level Education Schemes

The Press Information Bureau published a year-end review of the MHRD named “Achievements of the Ministry of Human Resource Development during 2017”. The review mostly deals with the reforms and resource allocation the ministry did at an urban or semi-urban level. It elaborates on the improved quality of education in the KV’s and the multitude of Digital India schemes the government aims to implement in the sphere of education. However, it fails to report on the reforms or successful schemes to deal with the most basic and rooted problems at the micro-level.

The rural educational spaces have always been riddled with problems like lack of proper transport, parental support towards education, infrastructural programs, teacher absenteeism, lack of quality teachers and resource management. Moreover, huge corruption scams in the mid-day meal programs have surfaced but no stringent action has been taken by the ministry. The shortcomings of existing programs need to be studied and duly revised. In the quest to move towards digitalisation of education it is important to simultaneously re-structure and help build a stronger education sector in the remote parts of the country.  

Establish A Uniform Science Syllabus For XI And XIIth

Syllabus for senior secondary education varies across all the states and centre-run schools. One might argue that while the language might differ from textbook to textbook, the content does remain the same. However, given that the 11th and 12th board syllabi are the base for all the Graduate level Entrance exams, it is important to have textbooks which explain things in a comprehensive and lucid manner.

The education sector is in shambles in backward states like Odisha and Bihar, where states haven’t revised their books for a long time. It continues with its low quality of textbooks, which differ greatly in language and illustrations, which leads to a level of academic disparity in students from different boards. The absence of a common curriculum for the senior secondary years has resulted in a crooked system where a state board student, apart from being well-versed with the state-board syllabus, also needs to have an in-depth knowledge of the NCERT syllabus (in some cases, mere knowledge is insufficient; that’s when mugging up enters the scene) to clear the All India Entrance Tests for Medicine and Engineering seats. The idea of establishing a uniform syllabus has been doing the rounds in the media, but no necessary measures have been taken up.

Strive Towards Establishing A Library-Culture

In this Jio generation, knowledge has become easily accessible. Connectivity has increased, and the current government has strived towards digitalisation of India. In this context, there is a need to understand what exactly we reap from this “digitalisation” with respect to education. Providing computers and internet connections should not be the end of this digitalisation. Constructing E-libraries, generously stocked with books, journals, magazines and newspapers accessible to the general public is the need of the hour. One can get lost (talking about students here who are introduced to the internet for the first time) in the complex bubble of the internet and end up in completely different spaces. This is where the need of a library comes in.

We hardly have a library culture in India. Forget rural, finding a good state-run library stocked with a varied range of books even in an urban space is difficult. In such a situation, where does one turn to when in need of a good reading or research space? Hence, emphasis should be given to promoting a library culture where people can have easy access to books and journals of their liking, be it through e-libraries or physical libraries. Rural India needs to have more access to books and a push by the government towards constructing this would no doubt have a lasting impact.

Examine The ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) In Universities And Colleges

While the UGC has made it compulsory to have an ICC in every Government University to tackle sexual harassment in University spaces, it is being seen that most universities take the issue lightly and do not have a proper functioning ICC. The Raya Sarkar list of “sexual predators” which was made public in 2017 is a testimony to this. Creating an environment conducive to study and work is extremely important in these spaces. It is high time that the UGC examines the workings of these committees and takes stringent action against the perpetrators.

Work On Implementation Of The New Education Policy (NEP)

The National Policy on Education was first introduced in 1985 which called for “special emphasis on the removal of disparities and to equalise educational opportunity.” It dealt with elementary education in both rural and urban spaces, which included more scholarships, emphasis on sex-education, teacher integration, policies for the poor families etc. The current government has been working to set up a New Education Policy, keeping in mind the “transformed landscape of education in India in terms of coverage, content and delivery systems”, as the National Policy on Education was last modified in 1992. It had set up a consultation platform which took approximately 2.75 lakh consultations online and an extensive nation-wide consultation, reaching up to the grass-root levels, was carried out. A committee for the evolution of the NEP has also been constituted to examine and draft the NEP basing on the outcome of these recommendations.

The NEP will influence the education sector immensely as it includes policies on resource allocation, further development of the sector, and teacher management as well. It is essentially a project which in the future will decide the very basis of the education sector in India as it aims to make education accessible to all. With just a year left until the next elections, it is high time that the NEP policies are announced and the results of this heavily funded exhausting survey are realised for the general public.

Basically, the MHRD could do with a lot of ground-level implementation of its numerous flagship programmes. Prakash Javadekar could also start prepping for the next elections, perhaps.

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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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