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“Where Does Our Education Tax Go If Not To Educate Our Children?”

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I grew up watching a lot of American TV shows and movies. It would be interesting to be exposed to a Western way of life. The American dating scene, school and college life, Halloween, Thanksgiving, parenting styles amongst other things.

In particular, I recall that American parents would start saving up for their child’s college education from the very birth. “I’m working three jobs for her college education,” “we had to take money out of your college fund,” “we need to save money for your college fund,” etc. In contrast with Indian parents who would start saving for their daughter’s dowry, American parents seemed to be very progressive to my impressionable young mind.

Truth be told, my parents were never too concerned about my college fund. Government college fees for many middle class parents come as a huge relief, especially for those who educate their children in private schools. My graduation cost my parents 30K, post-graduation 20K, and my PhD about ₹5000. My entire higher education cost my parents 55K, which is still lesser than my private school’s fees for one year. I learnt, what I thought was a cultural difference between American and Indian parents, was actually the difference between the economic policies in the two countries.

Over the last few years, there have been no new government universities, no increase in number of seats in existent universities, no increase in number of hostels, no increase in allocation of funds for infrastructure, and no permanent appointments of faculty. College fees have been hiked, research funds cut, teachers’ salaries have slumped and promotions denied. Not so coincidentally, there has been rampant proliferation of a number of private institutions that treat students as customers and education as a business.

No doubt, many middle class parents have started saving up for their child’s college education. “DU main toh hona bahut mushkil hai, private ke liye paise chahiye,” (It’s difficult to get into DU, so we need to save up for a private institute) or “Government medical main nahi hoga toh paise deke management seat se private main medical kara denge,” (Pursuing medical studies at a government institute seems impossible, maybe we’ll use the management quota to apply at a private institute) or “Engineering kara denge private se.” (We’ll organise for an engineering seat at a private institute)

IITs, DU, AIIMS, and IIMs are coveted because they still offer quality education at affordable prices. But should it be this competitive? Have we ever asked ourselves, why are these cut-offs so high? Why are the chances of getting through IIT, IIMs, AIIMS so slim? Could it be that I’m intelligent, but there are not nearly as many seats in colleges as there should be?

Where does our education cess go if not to educate our children? Why is our money used to bail out non-performing assets and a free reign given to Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya and other crony capitalists? Is there any accountability? Do we indeed have a right to education?

In a not so dystopian future, students will be heavily burdened by debt, the ease with which one could otherwise change their fields of study because of affordable education will be all but lost. Parents and students will be indebted heavily to a system to ever question the unfairness of it.

Education will become accessible for privileged few, leaving behind a large section of the society, the socio-economically disadvantaged, the differently abled, and women. Oh, the women! Dowry still hasn’t ceased to be nearly as important as women’s education in our country.

I’m here, I’m fighting, it gets scary and lonely, but I don’t know any other way to be. Call me naïve but I believe in the power of education. Not the education that can be bought and sold, but the education that our texts speak of – sa vidya ya vimuktaye (that which liberates is education).

Privatisation of education will make slaves of students, teachers, and the society alike. Neo-colonialism someone called it, nationalism, shouted another on TV. Koi toh poocho, mandir wahi banaayenge, par college kaha jayeenge? (Will someone ask, if the temple is to be built where it is, where are the colleges going to go?

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Vipin Kumar via 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.

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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.

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        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.

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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.

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        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
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