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Lockdown: How Can The Education Sector Be Saved From The Pandemic?

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Education is the foundation upon which we build our future – Christine Gregoire.

Image credit: Getty Images

The petrifying novel coronavirus has shaken the world to its core and has destabilized the developmental process of the world economy as a whole.

Lockdown issued by nations across the world has hit the heart of a globalised world. Education is one among the scores of sectors that have been severely affected by the lockdown.

In India, the government, as a part of the nationwide lockdown, has closed all educational institutions, as a consequence of which, learners ranging from school-going children to postgraduate students, are affected; and there is no certainty when they will reopen.

Some relevant facts-

  1. These nationwide closures are impacting over 91% of the world’s student population.
  2. The UNESCO report estimates that the pandemic will adversely impact over 290 million students across 22 countries.
  3. The UNESCO estimates that about 32 crore students are affected in India, including those in schools and colleges.

Repurcussions of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Education Sector:-

  1. The structure of schooling and learning, including teaching and assessment methodologies, was the first to be affected as only a handful of private schools could adopt online teaching methods as compared to their low-income private and government school counterparts.
  2. The pandemic has significantly disrupted the higher education sector as well, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future.
  3. Decline in the demand for international higher education as most of the Indian students enrolled in universities of countries like US, UK, Australia and China are compelled to return to their countries due to the shutdown.
  4. We could see disruptions in the schooling of girls and children of people who migrated back from urban to rural areas after losing their livelihoods, post abrupt imposition of lockdown.
  5. Schools are more than learning centers for poor children. About 9.12 crore Indian children are not receiving their Mid-day meal during school closure.
  6. It has also led to an increase in the number of cases of child abuse, child marriage and child labour.
  7. Lack of proper infrastructure required for e-learning, inaccessibility of internet facilities in the remote areas, unprepared teachers for online education, adverse impact on the employment rate are some of the major problems.

Moreover, there is a risk that prolonged out-of-school learning may lead to alienation of children from school systems and exacerbation of existing inequalities.

Challenges In the path of Virtual Learning:

In rural households, only 14.9% had access and in urban households only 42% had access. On the gender basis, 16% of women had access to mobile internet, compared to 36% of men.

The major challenge is to address the digital divide in terms of rural-urban and male-female. According to the National Sample Survey 2017- 18, only 23.8% of Indian had internet access. In rural households, only 14.9% had access and in urban households only 42% had access. On the gender basis, 16% of women had access to mobile internet, compared to 36% of men.

With a lack of education infrastructure and unprepared teachers, learning comes across as somewhat patchy and impersonal experience. The authentication of the educational material is at stake; digital safety challenges will remain at large while imparting education.

Moreover, e-learning is likely to witness a high drop-out rate due to the lack of atmosphere for studying.

Digital Transformation of Education System:- The Road Ahead

Although the world is currently facing a crisis situation and already all the sectors are in jeopardy, we must also take some assertive steps to bring an educational revolution through a multi-pronged strategy and by promoting technology-driven digitial learning.

The government has come up with e-learning programme, the most widely known platform being “The Diksha Platform”.

Ed-Tech Firms:

Many ed-tech firms have tried to leverage the occassion by offering free online classes or attractive discounts on e-learning modules; some startups witnessing as high as 25% uptick in e-learning.

Advantages of Digital Learning:

It is more interesting, personalised and enjoyable. Each student gets in contact with a world-class education, which is not easy to impart by the traditional white chalk and blackboard method of teaching.

No physical and geographical barrier as individuals can learn from any corner of the world. Moreover, it is cost-effective, and students get to learn in the confines of their comfort zone. Massive open online course (MOOC) is said to open gateways for a lot of Indians in terms of bringing an educational revolution.


Students are the human captial and their potential needs to be harnessed in the best possible manner even in this crisis situation.

In my opinion, the one nation, one channel or one digital framework needs to be reconceptualized to ensure equity and quality in education.

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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.

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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.”

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, 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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