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These 4 Systemic Issues, If Addressed, Will Better Capacity Building For Teachers

Labelling a teacher as a good teacher or bad teacher is directly proportional to the attainment of learning outcomes. If the class has attained grade-level competency, it must be due to the teacher’s effort. If not, it might be due to neglect or the teachers’ incompetency. Attributing success or failure to an intervention strategy is a linear approach to looking at the outcome. We are only looking at the tip of the iceberg. Systemic issues (read local context) are not considered. The teacher’s voice/reflection get drowned in the cacophony of a drill like preachy workshop routine.

We are a long way from attaining grade-level competency in government schools. We would be mistaken to believe that competency gaps are not the only gaps meddling with students’ learning outcomes. Mindset associated with teaching and learning practices needs to change. In his book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, Freire talked about the Banking Concept of Education, where the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.

This fact is mirrored in the four walls of a government school classroom to date. I have curated a list of systemic issues that need to be given their fair share of emphasis in the capacity-building workshops for teachers.

Representational image.

1. Socio-Economic Condition

In government schools, the majority of the students are first-generation learners who work to support their family financially and hence are not regular to schools. Government schools are understaffed with as many as 55-60 students in one class who don’t turn up regularly. Ideally, we would want to cater to every learner’s individual needs, but we don’t have the resources.

Albeit, the learning outcomes espoused by MHRD are attainable by people of relative affluence as they don’t have to worry about opportunity costs (money, food, and shelter) of not coming to school. The socio-economic condition does meddle with the learning outcomes. It is high time that we give up on the notion of one size fits all in our workshops and take local context into account.

2. Student-Teacher Relationship

A teacher teaches students at a government primary school in Madhya Pradesh
Representational image.

In his books, John Hattie has come out with a list of 150 influences that are related to learning outcomes. The teacher-student relationship ranks 10th in this list. In my field interventions, I have, on multiple occasions, observed the dialogical relationship between a teacher and a student. Safe to say that the classroom environment is not conducive to co-intentional learning. Often a teacher, mostly unknowingly, bring their prejudices to the classroom.

A qualitative comparison of several schools’ teacher training found their practices to reflect the culture in which they existed. For example, there was a teacher in one of my schools who said the student couldn’t understand much because she is from a lower caste.

These assumptions get internalized by the student. A teacher is regarded with respect. Respect is often confused with authoritarianism, which in turn annuls fear-free environment. Two researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson in 1968 that proved the extent to which teacher expectations influence student performance.

The “Pygmalion Effect” showed that positive expectations influence student performance, and conversely, negative expectations influence performance negatively. Teacher training must address the idea of fostering a classroom environment that facilitates students’ development, see a learner’s perspective, and communicate back to them.

3. Workshop Design

Representational image.

The workshops are lecture-like, sermonizing, and didactic in design. There is a lack of space for reflection for participants. As an educator, it is imperative to have humility, to know the limitations of one’s practice. It can be very easy for a teacher to fall into comfortable, if not beneficial, patterns over time.

Teacher training must be modelled on reflective teaching, a process of self-examination and self-evaluation that effective educators regularly engage in improving their professional practices.

It can be done through role-play, appreciative inquiry, reflection circles, etc. Kettle and Sellars (1996) found that reflective peer groups encourage student teachers to challenge existing theories and preconceived views of teaching. Coming face to face with their practice would enable them to work on their teaching practices and help improve student performances on their own without the workshop coming across as intrusive.

Representational image/ REUTERS/Babu AD/FA – RTR6TX4

4.Motivation Levels Of A Teacher

The pressure of matching up to the learning levels of a student going to private schools is worrisome. We have forgotten that the life chances offered to children in private schools and government schools are not the same. Owing to this pressure, the teachers succumb to running behind attaining those targets, often disappointing.

The hard work that teachers put in for achieving those goals lies in shards, adversely affecting the motivation levels of teachers. The workshops somewhat assume a paternalistic attitude often berating if an individual target is not met.

Workshops need to make teachers believe that they are change agents –that all students can learn and progress. It needs to begin with the acknowledgement that we are not comparing monkeys with monkeys but with lions, maybe.

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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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