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I Joined Engineering As A Passionate Student, But Here’s How I Was Let Down

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Wikipedia defines education as “the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.”

The Indian education system limits the definition of ‘acquisition of knowledge’ within a straitjacket. What is our idea of knowledge? Is it acquiring wisdom, honing skills, learning values and building a personality or just the ability to score good marks and secure a job? I’m sure we all concede to the former defining knowledge the best. But, unfortunate as it may be, the latter guarantees more credibility and holds more importance in contemporary times. And, somewhere down the line, we all end up conforming to the latter, that’s what matters in this world. When was the last time someone cared about what we actually learnt?

The current education system traces its roots back to the industrial era. The need for labourers and workers, who were good at following instructions, set this practice in motion. The agenda of education was limited to this, with zilch scope for innovation and creativity. There were people who broke this norm back then as well and, were highly successful in their respective field, but the majority was limited to the former only. The need for such labourers justified the practice.

But, in this present era of information, the environment and needs of the system have undergone a drastic change. And, we are still stuck with a 100-year-old baseless system which may as well be creating robots customized to follow instructions.

Right from kindergarten to college, we’ve been following a fixed set of rules; and at the end of each year there’s a test which ranks our ability to follow those rules. That’s how trivial our education has been marked out as. For a redo, change needs to begin at the ground level, but how will we do that if we don’t have mental access to think beyond the box!

From the very beginning, we’re told “This is a race. Run fast or you won’t matter to society.” And so, we run. Our credibility is judged on the basis of our ability to memorise text, whether or not we understand it. Should the rampant unemployment even surprise us, then?

Let’s talk about the most widely accessed course in India, engineering, as I graduated in the same. After school, I got admission at NIT, Bhopal for my B.Tech degree. Unlike others, I wasn’t forced to take PCM (Physics, Chemistry and Maths) in school; it was my choice. It had always been my passion and I was very excited for my course. But, it didn’t take me long to realize that this college, this ‘Institute of National Importance’ was no different. Nobody cared about learning, innovation, personality development. Everything revolved around the monopoly of scores.

That’s how we’re ‘manufacturing’ engineers in this country. We’re highly likely to forget most of this stuff; so there is no difference between a person before and after joining college. Our brains remain at the same level. Our studying, improvement, research skills, our education lies in our hands. What is the point of joining a technical institution then? I was promised guidance, overall development, competent mentors of highest ability for direction, but, I was on my own, and it sucked.

Soon, I realised my way around this. I realised who managed to get past this system and who really succeeded. I realised how a good rapport with the faculty was the way to good marks. The sooner you understood that, the better it would be for you. Raising unnecessary doubts, going to professors’ cabins for unnecessary discussions (trust me, there was hardly any meaningful output), predicting the top performers in class had become an easy thing. Everybody in my batch was busy learning like this, and it was frustrating because I couldn’t. Simply put, it was not like me to do so.

So, being bookish and building a good rapport with the faculty are the two things you’re going to need for good marks, especially in a technical institution, which is upsetting and difficult to get used to. A place that encourages innovation, celebrates science, values passion suddenly becomes a place you start hating, unless you succumb to its cliché and outdated culture.

I was the most excited to study engineering, but at the end of final year, I was not even sure if I wanted to pursue this field anymore, because they suck the passion out of you, leaving no scope for excitement.

Despite my inability to succumb to these practices, I managed an average pointer. But, there are numerous students who fail, get backlogs, with no jobs. Here’s my question: did they fail the system or did the system fail their expectations?

We’re not educating our children. All we’re doing is training them to read, write and rote learn. Add to this, the absolute absence of practicality and personality development – both of which, would only add to the value of what they contribute in their jobs. All we teach them is the history of what has happened, that too in the most conventional and boring form, and then present them with a test – a test of validation from the system and society!

We’re paying a price. Unemployment is on a rampant increase. According to statistics, around 31 million people (7%) are unemployed. But this statistic includes the illiteracy problem. The literacy rate in India is only 74.04%. There’s a massive difference in making our children literate and making our children educated. We are failing, disgracefully, in the latter.

But, here’s what’s more haunting. According to a survey with several MNCs, 6% engineering graduates are employable. 95% of CS (Computer Software) graduates can’t code. More than 60% of engineering graduates are actually unemployed. And, this is just engineering graduates’ data. The situation is far worse in other courses. More than 90% of Indian graduates do not contribute to the Indian economy!

These statistics and our method of imparting education in schools and colleges, is massively distorted. Let us, for a minute, pause and analyse where we are standing and what we are building for our future. In our attempts to achieve an ‘end’ (an improved social and economic future), we need to hone our ‘means’ (the students, who will shape the future) well.

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  1. Snigdha Sony

    Students lack scientific temperament and it all begins at school! .The curiosity dies in early age.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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