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Telecasting Ramayana Won’t Solve India’s Education Crisis. What Will?

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

The outbreak of the coronavirus is a major crisis facing the post-World War II world. The crisis has affected all aspects of human life. The disease should not be caused by the lack of antibiotics, so the only option now is to take preventive measures. Therefore, efforts are underway in all countries to control the disease, depending on the policy of lockdown. The uncertainty created by this situation has created an atmosphere of fear around the world.

The global and national economies are reeling from the recession and unemployment. Due to the stagnant economy, a handful of hardworking people have migrated from the city to the villages and starved to death, either because of Corona; this working class is stuck in this dilemma. The world is gripped by fears that the Sino-U.S. economic power struggle could take the form of a ‘biological war’.

Migrant workers walking home on foot after the lockdown was announced.

The centres of global power are shifting from Europe to the Americas to Asia. The forced emptiness and loneliness caused by lockdown has led to family-social-mental health problems. Many countries have also closed educational institutions to prevent corona.

According to a UNESCO report, in April 2020, 154 crore students in 188 countries were at home. 1.5 million schools are closed in India. As a result, 26 crore students and 89 lakh teachers are sitting at home, while 50,000 institutions of higher learning are closed and 3.70 crore students and 15 lakh college teachers are sitting at home. It is a time bomb for 30 crore students to sit at home empty-handed.

Currently, coronary heart disease is considered to be the only health problem, but it is also important to note that this crisis is on the side of educational problems.

It is not possible to overcome the present problems by entertaining the masses in the virtual world of the past by showing serials like Ramayana, Mahabharata on television to alleviate the emptiness and loneliness of the people.

UNESCO has instructed its member countries to take immediate action on the issue of out-of-school students.

The disruption in education is depriving children of their right to education, according to UNESCO. Through the media, like distance learning, use of information technology, YouTube, Hangouts, multimedia, mobile phones, e-library, television, many countries have initiated such initiatives so that children’s education should not be disrupted immediately. In India, however, decisions are being taken only to cancel exams, postpone exams, and admit children to the next class without taking exams.

Given the uncertainty of the situation, India also needs to formulate a long-term education policy. In India, information technology is widely used in higher education and in vocational courses such as medicine, engineering, commerce and management. Laptops, internet etc. are available as the students are financially advanced. The cost is affordable for them. So the study, mainly of small groups of an elite class, is going online. The same experience is in school education.

The children of the upper-middle class, who are going to a five-star school with all the facilities, are also getting an online education. The problem is that they are a minority and the majority of them are hardworking, poor class children. Nomadic, tribal, rural boys or girls go to the government or subsidized schools. Information technology has a lot of scope to spread education, expand education, quality of education, increase educational opportunities.

According to TRAI, the number of Internet users in India in 2020 is 68.45 crore. The number of mobile phone users is 48.82 crore. So, the number of smartphone users with internet is 40.72 crore. The number of TV viewers is 76 crore. Although this information technology seems to have expanded, there is a huge disparity. In India, 53% of the population uses the Internet. This means that half of India is deprived of the benefits of the Internet.

In rural areas, 36% of the population and in urban areas, 64% of the population use the Internet, while 67% of men and 38% of women use the Internet in India. Information technology is now being monopolized by the urban, affluent, and men. The benefits of the government projects namely ‘National Digital Library’, ‘Swayam’, Shodh Ganga etc. are limited. The online education of the project includes the cost of a computer, internet cost, power supply etc.

There are major difficulties. So online education is affordable to the affluent class in the chain city. The situation is similar in many underdeveloped countries. So those countries have started using TV medium more during school closures. In India, however, there is no simple discussion of such a scheme.

There are more than nine hundred channels in India and some steps need to be taken by the education department on how to use these channels for students sitting at home.

Lockdown has created a lot of problems for Indian students and their parents who have gone abroad for education. Indian students abroad are under pressure due to poor curriculum schedule, financial stress, visa deadlines, job insecurity, repayment of tuition loans, etc. Some foreign universities are trying to use the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence, robotics as an alternative during this period.

However, a lot of students are still stuck abroad in crisis. It will take time for the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Human Development to come up with a plan to help them.

What Can Be Done? A Recommendation

It is important to make sure that the student’s study is not interrupted. The Central and State Governments should immediately plan how the education of the children of this community will continue uninterruptedly during the school days keeping in view the children of the toiling masses. In a city with a metropolis like Mumbai, today there are roads, providing education to deprived children.

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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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