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Pandemic Can Be An Opportunity To Revamp Our Education System: Read How!

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Odisha: A school student appearing for learning assessment

Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, July 6: A group of civil society organizations have launched a national campaign on education titled “Hamari Maang: Achha School, Sudharatmak Shiksha”. The mission 3-5-8 aims towards activating the education system in all states of India to bridge these learning outcomes and ensuring that government provides basic infrastructure in all primary schools. They aim to achieve the same by Independence Day.

Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha; Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha; Sonbhadra Vikas Sangathan, Uttar Pradesh; Jan Adhikar Kendra, Bihar; Dalit Adivasi Manch, Chhattisgarh; and Ideal youth, health and welfare society, Delhi are leading this campaign in collaboration with Atmashakti Trust.

The primary and secondary data indicates a huge gap in learning outcomes of the students of classes 3/5/8. Using the current situation as an opportunity as schools are closed, there should be a national-level effort to bridging the gaps by August 15. Also, policymakers should ensure an effective ongoing remedial system so that these gaps are minimized in future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has entrenched structural imbalances between rural and urban areas and has had a critical impact on children’s education, particularly of those from marginalized sections.

“Children, mostly from the poor-families, who study in government-run schools, are the worst sufferers as their learning has taken a pause. Though state governments have offered several online classes, both teachers and students are facing challenges as there is an absence of physical classrooms and proper digital infrastructure. The disparity in access from smartphones, computer, electricity and internet connections also pose a challenge to mitigate the learning gap”, says Mr Anjan Pradhan, Convener of Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha.

Remedial Classes And Digital Infrastructure

Online Education
With the existing digital divide, relying only on online education will push the have-nots out of the education system, which will be accumulating inequity in educational outcomes.

The data from Niti Ayog and ASER indicates the fact that there is a huge learning outcome defect across all students enrolled in a government school. Whereas the reasons for this are manifold — poor infrastructure, teacher absence, poor quality of teaching, irregular student attendance, etc.

According to the Annual School Education Report (ASER) 2019, only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read the text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognize letters.

The difference is starker in case of internet access. In states like Delhi, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand, more than 40% of households have access to the internet. The share is less than 20% for Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.

The most disturbing factor for our children is that their learnings have already taken a halt since the last three months. With the existing digital divide, relying only on online education will push the have-nots out of the education system, which will be accumulating inequity in educational outcomes.

Odisha Fares Barely Better

The Odisha government has introduced remedial classes for its students and claiming that the initiative will benefit over 40 lakh students in the State. Still, ground reports claim that the effort is not working as per the expectations, due to many factors. The Economic Survey 2018-19 says that out of a total 51,311 villages, about 11,000 villages (more than 20%) in the state do not have mobile connectivity. Similarly, Odisha has just 28.22 internet subscribers for a population of 100, compared to the national average of 38.02.

“Online education can supplement towards bridging the learning gap, but it cannot replace the classroom, because one to one interactions among peers and teachers is very important for learning”, says Mr Manoj Samantaray who is involved in the research study on the student’s learning outcome assessment in Odisha.

The campaign will strategize efforts to engage multiple stakeholders including the government, media, civil society organizations, school management committees and parents and will bring forth education issues of the children so that remedial classes are conducted effectively, and other infrastructure development initiatives are taken up by the state governments in war-footing measures”, he added.

The pandemic has adversely affected everyone’s life. However, if there is even a small opportunity during this pandemic to work on improving the education of the children of the marginalized section of the society, we strongly recommend the government to take the initiative and use this lockdown period to engage in improving the quality of 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.

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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.

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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.

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 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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