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Domino-Effect Of Climate Change Will Hamper Access To Education. Here’s How.

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

Climate change and access to education seem to have the faintest of connections on the surface, but multiple studies have found to the contrary. Climate change which causes irregular rainfall, heatwaves and extreme weather events like cyclones and hurricanes, has been found to severely hamper access to education.

Adverse weather destroys school infrastructure and cuts off access to schools by destroying bridges and roads. A cyclone in Mozambique in early 2019 resulted in widespread damage to schools. Around 3,400 classrooms were destroyed or damaged and many required renovations after being used as emergency shelters.

In all, this cyclone had affected 3,05,000 schoolchildren in a country that already has a very low enrollment rate of around 20%. A prolonged disruption in their education will have a detrimental effect in the short and long term.

Credit: Duke University

The 2016-17 agricultural season in Zimbabwe had heavy rainfall which destroyed around 20% of the country’s schools and affected 5,00,000 schoolchildren. The incidence of dropout increased in places that required bridges to reach schools and where families moved to safer places leading to the withdrawal of children from these schools. Adverse weather conditions also affect the teachers’ incentive to work in flood and drought-prone areas.

Another study by a University of Maryland researcher found significant links between extreme weather and early life educational attainment. Studying 29 countries in the tropical zone they found that climate change negatively affects school children in multiple ways. Since most of these countries are primarily agrarian, reduced rainfall affects a large swath of the working population.

Droughts and unproductive agricultural seasons result in lesser food in the home which leads to malnutrition, which impairs retention and learning performance. This leads to an increased dropout rate. Children are also pulled out of school to contribute to the household and compensate for the reduced income. Reduced disposable income also means that parents are reluctant to spend on their children’s education as opposed to necessities like food.

Credit: UNDP

The brunt of the impact is borne by the school going girls, as this study by UNDP in Zimbabwe found. Boys are given priority over girls, especially at the secondary school level whenever the household faces adversity. Girls are forced to traverse large distances by foot to get water during times of drought. This impacts their ability to complete homework and attend school.

Early child marriages are used by the communities in Zimbabwe as a way to mitigate food shortages (which is exacerbated by climate change). Marriages are welcome since the dowry received helps the family to get by during times of low agricultural output. There is one less mouth to feed and the food security of the girl at the in-laws is also perceived to be better by the parents.

According to the UNDP study, “In 2015, 4.4% of the female students who withdrew from primary school gave the reasons citing marriage (3%) or pregnancy (1.4 %). Only 0.1% of the boys who withdrew from school did so for purposes of getting married. At the secondary school level, the situation was worse.”

The study goes on to state that “About 20.5% of girls who dropped out of school did so because of marriage and an additional 14.6% of the girls that dropped out of school did so because they were pregnant. In contrast, only 2.4% of boys who dropped out of school did so because of marriage, while only 0.6% dropped out because of pregnancy (of the partner).”

Increasing temperatures have been linked to lower test scores in a study by Harvard researchers. They found that “on average, student achievement fell by the equivalent of 1 percent of a year’s worth of learning for each additional degree Fahrenheit in temperature during the year preceding the exam.” This disproportionately affected black and Hispanic students since they were more likely to live in hotter places than their white counterparts.

It was also found that the negative effects of heat-affected minority students are three times as much as compared to the white students. The initial disadvantage gets magnified so much that the researchers posit that 13% of the racial achievement gap in the US can be attributed to heat.

Air conditioning mitigated the effect of heat on academic achievement to a large extent (78%). They also estimated that air conditioning would offset over ₹17,70,000 ($25,000) per classroom per year in future lost earnings due to increasing temperatures as predicted by climate change models. This significantly outweighs the cost that would be incurred in installing and operating these systems. Though this study isn’t related to access to education, it does give us some insight into how heat can affect academic growth.

For representation only.

The conclusions which have been controlled for all factors except heat can be applied to schools in hotter countries of Africa and Asia which lie near the equator. The schools in these countries would be running much hotter than the ones in the US and thereby reducing academic achievement and exacerbating the poverty of countries which is already attributed to hotter climates.

This field of research is nascent with only a few studies that exist. There is little to no data about access to education in India, home to one of the largest student populations which are spread across diverse biomes. This is especially crucial because climate change is going to affect India severely by the virtue of its sheer population and resource constraints and its proximity to the equator. Floods and droughts are common in many states already which would be affecting innumerable students.

The link between climate change and the frequency of extreme weather events has been established by multiple studies. This means that events like the ones mentioned above are going to increase in severity and frequency. Also, since climate change disproportionately harms those from marginalised communities, the hampered access to education will cut off one of the major pathways that families have for upward mobility.

Climate change will reinforce the income inequalities that exist worldwide and compound the intergenerational disadvantages even more since access to education will be severely affected.

We are 12 years from the point of ‘no return‘. Just a decade to make or break the future of humanity. Does climate change feel urgent enough yet?

Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program

Featured Image For Representation Only.
Featured Image credit: Getty Images
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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.”

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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, 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.

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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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