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Here’s How Transformations In R&D And Infrastructure Are Aiding Delhi’s Government Schools

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“Education holds the key to economic growth, social transformation, modernization and national integration.” This is the introductory line on the homepage of the Delhi Government Directorate of Education. While a lot of governments have such more catchy and promising lines, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has strived hard and ensured that this policy does not remain bound within the lines of a paper.

AAP also organises ‘AAP Dekho’ tours which give an insight into the ground development done by the government in schools, where they try to shed the old notion of government schools and blend into the idea of new-age teaching with smart boards and the like.

Nikhil Taneja, a writer by profession and teacher by passion, went on one such tour and shared how impressed and happy he was with the work carried on by the AAP government.

Youth Ki Awaaz spoke with Nikhil to know about his experience and he spoke about the tour warmed his heart seeing the students beaming with joy, and how the tour also made him hopeful. “As a teacher myself, I’m keenly invested in education and when I got the opportunity to go on an AAP Dekho tour, I lapped it up. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for all that I’d get to see. In a government school, the teachers were using smart boards for teaching, the students were very disciplined, the lab equipments, computers, furniture were all neat and shiny, the auditoriums were well equipped, and the atmosphere was one of learning. It really warmed my heart speaking to a few kids – and the teachers – and seeing their commitment towards sincere education. I’m not a person with political party inclinations, but I am so thankful to the people in the AAP education portfolio for putting so much focus on free education to Delhi’s children. Education is the real way to bring change. And I hope that they manage to take this spirit far and wide!” he said.

Budget Allocation: How Has The Government Utilized The Rs. 13,997 Crore?

The importance that this government has given to education is very clearly seen in the budgetary sanctions that it has laid aside. Out of the total Rs. 53,000 crore budget of the Delhi government this year, 13,997 crore were allocated to education, that comes around to 26% of the total budget, which is a huge margin of departure from previous times.

A total of Rs. 175 crore were allocated for the installation of about 1.2 lakh CCTV cameras to be installed in the new school buildings. They further allocated Rs. 10 crore for self-defence training of girl students, Rs. 20 crore for sports activities, Rs. 315 crore for the development of a world-class skill centre to ensure employment for the youth.

The success of these programmes reflected in the results in schools. The pass percentage at Delhi government schools saw a remarkable increase this year – rising to 90.68% from 88.36% last year. Whereas, in private schools, the percentage increased by 4.15% to reach 88.35%.

Infrastructure: A Library In Every School

Through this initiative, the GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) allotted Rs. 100 crores in its annual budget of 2017-18 for setting up new libraries in schools to promote reading habit and inculcate sense of creativity among students.

It introduced class libraries for 4500 sections from classes Nursery to Class V across 454 Sarvodaya Vidyalayas of Delhi, and 400 new libraries for Middle Classes (VI to X) in schools having high strength of students . It also provided modernised library facilities for 1029 schools. Further, an MoU was also signed with Room to Read India Trust to create unique library experiences for students of primary classes.

Technical Higher Education: Setting Up World Class Skill Centre And Facelifting ITIs

A world-class skill centre, Hunar, has been set up under the aegis of DTTE (Directorate of Training and Technical Education) in collaboration with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Government of Singapore. An initiative by the National Skill Development Mission and GNCTD to make Delhi a hub in vocational and technical education, it aims to create skilled manpower which is at par with global standards. It would provide courses in the fields of retail services, hospitality, finance and accounts and information technology as well as train 10,000 students every year.

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Singapore takes pride in its unique brand of college education that is based on a holistic “hands-on, minds-on, hearts-on” approach.

Additionally, more than 25 centres of excellence were created with the help of industrial partners in government Institutes of Training (ITIs) and Technology (earlier Polytechnics). Traditional labs have been converted into state-of-the-art labs with the latest tools and technology. With course curriculum in sync with changing market demand dynamics, more than 50,000 youth pass out of the portals of these institutions as skilled workforce every year.

R&D: Centre For Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning

Right from its inception, the focus of the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-Delhi) has been on becoming a strongly research-led institution. Accordingly, Infosys Centre for Artificial Intelligence has been set up for research purposes with a 3-year corpus grant of Rs. 24 crore by Infosys Foundation. This is one of the largest grants for establishing a research centre in an academic institution given by any Corporation in India, with over 35 research papers published in reputed international journals and over 20 PhD students working on AI projects.

Conclusion

The popular Bollywood movie Hindi Medium ended on a high note when the rich parents decided to withdraw their daughter from a private school (an admission which they struggled to get in the first place) and put her in a government school. It showcased a whole new side to a government school. While in the movie the whole structure of the government school was revamped by the parents, here, we have a government that has revamped the whole structure of the government schools in Delhi.

All I can say is that we have a long way ahead from here, but we have had the best start we could.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Arun Sharma for Hindustan Times via Getty.
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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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