As Climate Change Intensifies, It Could Create Barriers For Children’s Education

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Education allows the means for people to acquire knowledge and pursue career pathways, giving them a chance for higher social mobility. Although access to education is a basic human right, there have always been obstacles to it. The availability of quality education depends on where you reside, your level of income, and attainability of resources. Now, there is another barrier, which if not brought into the discussion and addressed, can generate severe repercussions on our youth’s education: climate change. While this will affect those already marginalised the most critically—even when education is available—we are starting to observe climate change having adverse effects on academic learning and performance, gender inequalities, and future economic development.

The research done on the effects of climate change on education concluded that extreme climate changes in the tropics could make it difficult for children to achieve a secondary school education. Excessive heat and precipitation in these areas, negatively affect everyone in fetal and early adolescence years—even those from more affluent households. This research was issued in the April 2019 copy of the publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The author of the research, Heather Randell, wrote that if climate change weakens educational attainment, it may have a compounding impact on underdevelopment that would over time amplify the immediate forces of climate change. “As the effects of climate change increase, children in the tropics will face new barriers to learning”, she added.

Children in Delhi studying under a highway.

Examining the connections between extreme heat and precipitation in early growth and educational attainment in 29 nations in the tropics, Randell and co-author Clark Gray, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that severe weather variations affect education in many guises. More than average rates of rainfall drove to the lowest predicted education for children in Central America and the Caribbean. Vulnerability to higher-than-average temperatures during prenatal and early childhood harms schooling and leads to fewer years of school attendance in Southeast Asia. Though the authors assumed well-off families to fare better; this was not the case. Children from the most educated families experienced the most unrelenting penalties when they felt hotter and drier circumstances in childhood.

Dhwani, a Sociology student, said that her college experience had been hampered because of the extreme weather conditions. She finds it hard to travel in the heat despite the air conditioning provided by the metro. On the other hand, a political science student, Neelakshi faced a massive heatstroke in the blistering hot summers in May while giving her examination. She was not able to give her best in the exam because of this.

It’s the same for school-going children. Priyanka, a 14-year-old girl, going to Bharat National Public School’s evening school programme, says that she has gotten used to the heat; however, her health deteriorates with the heat stress. She stated that one of her classmates dropped out because her parents were worried sick about her health and could not afford medication. Moreover, Aman a student of class sixth thinks it’s impractical for schools to hold assemblies in summers because he often sees his friends fainting.

The performance levels of students decrease and ailments due to extreme weather rapidly increase, thus leading to poor attendance and results. “Air conditioners can be installed in classrooms; however, they lead to the release of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) which is more dangerous to the ozone layer,” remarked Ayush, a 10th grader.

Education, nevertheless, is one of the best ways to combat climate change. The National Curriculum Framework, 2005, highlighted the synthesis of environmental concerns and approved project-based learning. In 2016, the UGC began a six-month mandatory course on environmental studies for undergraduates from all disciplines. Climate change education for information, capacity building and reform is still at an early stage and should become a component of the structured instruction. As it was perceived in a UNESCO study, India needs policy agreement on sustainable development, climate change and environmental education.

Greta Thunberg spurred the youth and adult activists and leaders since August 2018, when she started missing school on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish Parliament. Thousands of youngsters in the movement called Fridays for Future, now protest every Friday to demand more proactive action from their governments and the global society. The latest organised climate strike on May 24th attracted participants from 130 nations.

Global Climate Strike May 24, 2019: Young climate strikers in Delhi.

Like the rest of the globe, strikes were also held in 13 Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Kochi, Allahabad and Kozhikode. In Delhi, youngsters and adults marched on the stretch between Lodhi Gardens and Indira Paryavaran Bhawan. Students, activists, members of civil societies and others also participated. As the carbon dioxide levels rise, so does the number of people rising against it.

In agricultural economies like India, people are naturally reliant on temperature and rainfall. The rise in temperatures and reduced rain leads to a reduction in individual families’ incomes. With less disposable earnings, families are more inclined to spend their money on essentials like food rather than education fees. Families are also more prone to pull children out of school—so that children can work and add to the diminished family income.

A policy change will only bring the only possible solution for the real and lasting difference to educational accessibility. A school must be less costly and more accessible, and most importantly, livelihood diversification must be developed and supported. Families must adopt other forms of income generation other than farming so that their wages and familial choices are more flexible to environmental variability.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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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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