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The Indian Education System Is In Dire Need Of An Intervention

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“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

Getting an education means learning how to learn, mastering a way to acquire knowledge. Yes, education is not knowledge itself, it is a process of mastering a technique which can be used to attain knowledge and become more productive. This technique also unravel the great curiosities surrounding our lives. Education helps us produce electricity out of wind. Education is the potion which turned cavemen and hunters into settlers. Nature evolved us from apes to humans but it’s education which evolved us from an animal to a man and it is perpetually evolving us even further. Interestingly, use of these techniques helped us extract the knowledge that we were once apes. Does an Indian education provide us with all these techniques? Not completely, as it makes us cram and memorise more and more information until our brain becomes a trashcan.

The Indian education system is contended just with the acquiring of knowledge and rarely focusses on the techniques to acquire it. In school, students rarely study to learn something, they do it only for marks. Like seriously, the fun and excitement has been quashed out of education. If students blame teachers and parents for this, then they are only partially right because our approach towards education is also the culprit. Even for students, education is only something which helps them acquire marks. Education is a massive iceberg but due to our constrained approach, we just see the tip of that iceberg.

In various countries, education is approached with a much broader vision which is not constrained to just textbooks. In America, a 10-year-old girl learns about demand and supply by setting up her stall and selling stuff. She is told that if more than a certain amount of people buy from her stall then she can increase the price to a certain amount and if its the opposite, then decrease the price. When she is finally exposed to the theory of demand and supply in class, she connects with it instantly and that experience of setting up a stall acts as a bridge between textbook content and the practical aspect of demand and supply. While in India, a Class 12 kid may derive a demand curve from utility curve but if the intuitive reason is asked, there is a high probability that they would scratch their head for hours and not come up with the answer.

When students learn about a tree, they are engrossed just by looking at the board with their pens rushing through the pages to jot down each word a teacher speaks. They want to imprint all those words in their minds and use them during exams. Do they look at a tree outside the window? I doubt it. Most of the students in India study to score good marks. There is nothing wrong in that but why not focus on acquiring education-enabling techniques as well as add some semblance of enjoyment in the process? Everyone loves to watch the Discovery channel, History channel and news channels to quench their curiosity but the moment we find the same stuff in our textbook, the fun and curiosity factor goes out of the window. Even our high school history books are nothing more than a compilation of various historical events and reading about these events will only give you the feeling of living in the past.

Despite all this, Indians are flourishing throughout the world and interestingly the credit goes to none other than our Indian education system. It enables students with an extremely important tool. Handling pressure in tough times. A student is exposed to a highly competitive environment since a very young age and that prepares them to succeed in the cutthroat world. Still, it can’t be denied that Indian education is majorly confined to textbook knowledge and a practical approach is lacking. The best way to learn is by doing and that method is the initial phase of having a practical approach to education. So, efforts are needed to accelerate the inclusion of this approach in the Indian education system.

According to the World Bank, India spent 3.8% of its GDP on education while the United States spent more than 5.3% of its GDP on education in 2016. As the US gives a huge importance to education, and its research and development, they are leading in the field of science and technology. Hence, the US is a superpower while India is still just a developing nation. In America, the professors and teachers are like celebrities and their influence in the society is immense. While in India, people fail to give teachers that respect and recognition. For them, teachers are just people who provide knowledge to students.

To become a superpower, education is a very crucial factor. A practical approach to learning is a costly method. Prioritising education and allocating ₹85,000 Crore in the 2018 Budget is a great leap in that direction. At the same time, students should also try to explore the vast ocean of education on their own and not do it just for the sake of getting more marks.

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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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