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What Can Turn Around Bihar’s Education Scenario For The Better?

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Home to the surviving relics of education in ancient India, Bihar hosts education institutes like Takshasheela and Nalanda. Bodhgaya in Bihar is considered to be the site where Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Vriksha. Let’s take a look at the status of education in the state at present.

With a  literacy rate of 70.9%, Bihar has the third-lowest literacy rate in India which is 6.8% lower than the national average of 77.7%. The female literacy rate is lower than the male literacy rate in alignment with the divide in other aspects like employment and digital access.

The Central Bureau of Investigation recently booked four former CBSE officers for an illegal recruitment scam in Bihar. One of the four officers, Ruchin Tomar, was terminated from the job after he failed to provide the original mark sheets for his Bachelor of Engineering degree which was suspected to be forged.

A survey conducted by NITI Aayog in 2019, ranked Bihar the second-lowest in School Education Quality Index Report.

The Toppers Scandal

Bihar School Examination Board came into headlines in 2016 as well. The Bihar school examination scandal is popularly known as toppers scam where toppers of the science and arts streams were unable to answer basic questions about the subject on national TV.

The board suspended the affiliation of at least 88 schools and colleges affiliated to it that didn’t meet his guidelines. A 3 member team was formed to look into the fraud. Toppers were made to take a retest and their result cancelled after they didn’t pass the retest. The BSEB chairman resigned after being served a show-cause notice.

The scam brought Bihar under the radar which prompted the government to take immediate action to rectify the rotten system. The Aadhaaar card of the candidates began to be linked to their applications to prevent duplication scams. Photographs of the candidates were added to the admit card to prevent impersonation. CCTVs were added to the exam centres for extra surveillance.

After stringent measures to minimise the scope of fraud were implemented in examinations, 64% Class XII students from the Bihar Education Board didn’t pass. This was the worst result of a Board across the nation. This brought to light the silver lining that the digitisation of the Board had borne fruits and tested the students fairly.

Just previous year (2016) the pass percentage was 67.06%. While the scams in the examination had reduced considerably, the education system had not improved by the same proportions. Bihar recorded the highest percentage (37.8%) of absent teachers during an unannounced check conducted by researchers.

Second Lowest In School Education Quality Index Report

A survey conducted by NITI Aayog in 2019 ranked Bihar the second-lowest in School Education Quality Index Report. At present, there is a 40% vacancy of staff in government schools in Bihar. Only 11% of students in Bihar could access educational telecasts sponsored by the state according to a report released by RTE. With education shifting to a completely virtual medium across the country during the pandemic, Bihar loses out with its low rate digital access and digital literacy.

A recent survey by National University of Educational Planning & Administration (NUEPA) revealed that a mere 21% of all primary school teachers in the state had passed the 10th grade.

In spite of the irregularities in the school education system, Bihar has performed quite well in the highly coveted UPSC examination. During 2011-2015, Bihar gave the fourth-highest number of officers to Indian Administrative Service with a total of 68. Pratham, an NGO stated that the absorption rate of children from Bihar was the highest. The performance of BSEB has also improved over the years.

In 2020, 80.44% of students who had appeared for class 12 BSEB examination were declared passed. National institutions like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, IISER and NISER have a considerable number of students from Bihar.

The Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya have made a significant improvement in the primary level education in the state. The Nalanda Open University located in the state is the second-largest open university in the country. It provides long-distance and open-door admission ease for over 1.25 lakh students. It recently adopted the Varsity Management Information System, making it the first university in the state to do so.

The Bihar Education Project Council launched in 1991, has been working to achieve Universal Elementary Education across the state. The project works for increasing accessibility to education especially for the underprivileged sections and the minorities of the state.

Stories of hope are being written in Bihar as you read this. A school in Bihar has two teachers and a cook for the education of a single student. The Mansabigha Government Primary School, located 25 km south of the Gaya district, shines for its high student-teacher ratio compared to the dismal ratio in the rest of the state.

A higher rate of enrollment of children in education stands the potential of becoming the solution to many other issues in the state. An educated public is a force to be reckoned with. Bihar’s progress can very well advance with a focus on strong education infrastructure. This election, Bihar would be wise to demand a focus on effective education policies and projects in the state.

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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, 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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