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How The Educational Sector Is Coping Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Today, the world is struggling with the worst health crisis COVID-19. The normalcy of the educational sector is highly disrupted post the nationwide lockdown imposed. Institutions are trying to mitigate the situation using virtual platforms to minimize the ill-effects of this shutdown on students. India has the world’s largest young population in the age bracket of 5 to 24 years, which accounts for the huge pool of students enrolled in the formal system of education.

The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated online education, as per a recent report by UNESCO, more than 91% of the world’s student population has been affected. India has extended lockdown for the third time till 17th May, educational institutions are under a temporary closure to contain the pandemic spread which is impacting over 320 million learners in the country.

Students have to opt for alternative ways of learning during the lockdown.

Institutions are seeking help from online platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Meet, etc., in order to provide recorded and live classes to their students. Although, institutes are trying their best to teach the students in this crisis, at the same time we have to see into the infrastructural challenges that prevail in different parts of the country due to variation in the connectivity of the internet, availability of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, etc. There is a number of alternative steps are being taken by the teachers which also involves extra efforts, like sharing short recorded videos through WhatsApp, sending scanned copies of reading materials over email, so that small sized files ensure data saving and connectivity problem reducing the cost of data packs.

A number of tools are offered by the leading multinational technology companies to ensure continuity of courses during the period of lockdown. Google Meet which is a video conferencing app from Google allowing 250 participants at a time has made its premium features available for free till September 30. Zoom, another video conferencing app allowing its users an unlimited number of meetings.

How Platforms Are Making The Most Of It

India has emerged as the second-largest market for e-learning after the US, proactive measures are being taken by the number of startups like Indian Educational technology (Edtech) by providing online materials to ensure obstruction-free learning during a pandemic. The deteriorating quality of school education led to the emergence of such online educating platforms- BYJU’s, Unacademy, Vedantu. These Edutechs have now spread across the country by introducing interesting, innovative, and interactive learning modules to supplement and reinforce the learning of the students. These platforms came up with a number of offers to ensure continuous learning of students during the lockdown.

Vedantu, an online tutoring platform partnered with schools in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, and some cities of Kerala which enable teachers to use its platform for offering live lectures to their students. BYJU’s, a Bangalore based educational technology is now the world’s most highly valued tech company, has announced to offer free access to students of class 1 to 12, until the April end. Similarly, Unacademy announced to conduct free live classes for UPSC, Banking, Railway exams, and many others, conducting over 700 live classes per day.

As a consequence of the lockdown, every sector is experiencing a rapid decline, it is the online education companies in India which are witnessing a surge in the number of new users. Since announcing free live lectures on its app, BYJU has observed a 200% increase in the number of new users. (World Economic Forum, 29 April 2020) Unacademy witnessed triple growth in terms of its users watching free live classes in the month of March, after opening their platform for conducting classes free of cost without any time limitation.

Measures Taken By The Government

The government is also taking steps to promote online education in India, on 10th April 2020 a week-long ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign was launched by the Union Minister for HRD Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ for crowdsourcing of ideas for improving the online education ecosystem of India. (PIB, 13 April 2020)

Other notable steps taken by the government are e-pathshala developed by NCERT to promote and disseminate educational e-resources. Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) is an online portal with courses for high school (classes 9-12), to undergraduate and post-graduate levels. National Digital Library of India (NDL) is an online repository with over 15 million digital books available online.

There is no doubt that online learning platforms are a boon in the current scenario, but still, a question arises in the mind about the scope of e-learning platforms. Online learning is an effective way for those who have access to internet facilities, but its effectiveness varies with the age group, for example, young children need a structured learning environment as they get easily distracted, thus there should be physical engagement. According to Mrinal Mohit of BYJU’s children exclusively use their senses to learn thus making learning fun and effective through the use of technology is crucial.

Millions of students are getting educated from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Extensive use of technology also leads to a number of health issues, nowadays coaching centers of various competitive exams which are famous for their immense efforts, trying to give their best through online platform. Due to which students are spending a substantial amount of time on digital devices which may have a significant impact on their psychological and physical health.

Depression, anxiety, eye strain, and sleeping problem are some of the health issues develop due to continuous exposure to screen light, also use of mobile and computers may contribute to incorrect posture, over time this may lead to musculoskeletal issues.

But there is no other alternative for the educational sector to keep the continuity in learning during this critical period, all that we can do is to wait till normalcy restores.

STAY SAFE, STAY AT HOME!

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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.

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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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