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How Indian Students Abroad Are Struggling During The Pandemic

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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.

Education, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future, has been significantly disrupted by the pandemic. In response to the growing coronavirus outbreak, educational institutions have been forced to cancel classes and close the doors to campuses around the world in the last few months.

College campuses and universities are the buzzing cultural hubs where students live, study and strengthen the future of a country. Students across the nations and globe come together to build their careers. The foundations of this complex environment have significantly been impacted recently by the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak. In particular, we see a dark future for the international education scenario.

India has an excellent track record in international education exchange programmes. The ongoing crisis has a profound impact on both Indian students who study abroad as well as the international students who are in India now.

As we know that international studies are never cheap and it inculcates hefty college fees, living costs, travel cost and food costs too.

Issues ranging from social, economic and health have severely affected the healthy educational environment. Problems like staying away from the family or home country remain the secondary issue for these students. In contrast, the primary concern for international students is productivity. It is relevant to mention that, in the last budget 5 per cent of the total budget, i.e. Rs 99,311.52 crore was allocated for higher education and mainly the focus was to convert India into an international educational hub.

As we know that international studies are never cheap and it inculcates hefty college fees, living costs, travel cost and food costs too. Due to the lockdown of universities, the students have to settle for online classes which proves less productive than the authentic or traditional courses. Almost every country is in a state of recession, so it becomes difficult for current students to grab placements this year, especially in countries like the USA where the unemployment rate is at a hike.

For most of the students who opt for foreign education, they have plans to settle down in the same country after getting a decent job. Such programs have also been demolished due to the current situation.

Moreover, many university campuses are used as COVID healthcare centres. Hence, the students are not allowed to stay in the hostels. Thus, creating a problem for those students finding residence amidst the lockdown.

For students who are currently in their final semester, they are facing a next-level three-fold problem. These students have availed of visas for a limited time, the expiry of which can create problems. However, if they come back to their homes amid the ongoing semester, then they have to go again for the convocation ceremony and availing a student visa may seem difficult at the time.

Usually, most of the final year postgraduate students have to prepare a thesis or dissertation, and since all the universities are closed, the access to study materials has become problematic.

International travel is suspended, and there is no certainty when it will commence. As a consequence, many students are stuck in different countries. Recently, students from the US and UK had urged the ministry of external affairs to help them get back to their homes as the living situation is getting worse for them with each passing day.

Hamza Ali, an international student in India from Dubai, speaks about his problems during Coronavirus Pandemic:

“International travel is not allowed, so I am not able to go to my home, and as a result, I am stuck in India. Also, online academics are creating a problem because there are multiple occasions when one is not able to attend classes, and the main reason is internet connectivity. So, if I miss any class, then I have a fear of missing out from studies or content that is being delivered through online lectures.”

Tulika Mamgain, an international student in Canada from India, says that:

“I am studying overseas since September 2019, and it has been a wonderful experience. But, as a consequence of the pandemic we have our classes online, it becomes difficult to communicate at times and doubt clearance hardly takes place.”

Also, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Indian students are rethinking their prospective foreign education plans. According to The Economic Times Paywall report, nearly 1,00,000 students head overseas every year. Still, experts forecast that 40-60 per cent will scrap their plans this time.

The top concerns for students are safety, especially since the deadly virus has wrecked top destinations such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

The short term hurdles for students include getting visas and booking airline tickets. While the significant obstacles or fears revolve around finding jobs after attaining the degree because of the unstable economies.

It is quite evident that with the virus spreading across 212 countries of the world and cases emerging in more and more countries, more students are choosing to defer international study offer to a later year, rather than trying to find another country to study.

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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 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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