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Has Virtual Education Been Able To Penetrate All Sections Of Our Society?


The impact of Covid-19 pandemic has been observed in every sector around the world. The education system of India, as well as all the other sectors, have been affected by this. Governments all around the world were forced to impose lockdowns to curb the spread of the infection.

Thus, all schools, whether public or private, were closed down starting from March. But thanks to technological advancements, we have been able to adapt to this new normal by attending classes, workshops, training, and working. With no clear sign of schools reopening soon, they had to resort to virtual means to ensure that children’s education is not affected. Teachers are sending homework and reading material via WhatsApp or giving virtual classes on Zoom for these children.

Although this initiative needs to be appreciated, we still need to answer the bigger question: Has virtual education penetrated all sections of our society? We need to find an answer to this question by finding out the percentage of families who don’t own a smartphone and even if they do, can they afford the internet data plans?

I am working as a Gandhi Fellow with Kaivalya Education Foundation, and I’m associated with five schools in Sohna block of Gurugram district, contributing to capacity building of teachers and school leadership, during the pandemic. We started intervening with children through WhatsApp and Zoom app.

We found that the total number of children in classes 3 to 5 in the five schools is around 350, out of which parents of 293 children use WhatsApp. Among them, about 20-25% have a normal phone like (Jio) in which only WhatsApp functions. The question that needs to be raised and addressed is whether the parents who have a normal Jio phone can provide education to their children?

We tried to get views of both the parents and the teachers. On asking the headteacher of a school, Gaurav Ji, he said that most of our children’s parents here have Jio phones. When they send them any educational material in PDF, images, videos, or word, these formats are usually not supported in the Jio phones. Thus, the children cannot view it and complete the assignments in due time; the same problem arises while sending the assignments.

In such a situation, when most of the parents are unable to send the assignments in different formats, they get fed-up and pay less attention to their children’s education. When the teachers want to connect with children through Zoom, those children cannot connect with the class. In such a situation, we also face many challenges about how we can continue cooperating in the education of those children. He says that these children will face many difficulties in adapting to the next class whenever the schools reopen.

In the same way, this can be a trend across India or developing countries; they also have children from certain sections who have normal phones or fewer technology resources; their education in this pandemic has also been affected. If we focus on these people, then millions of children have lost a lot in their education during the pandemic. If we go ahead with ed-tech in the future or study through technologies, we will keep ignoring these millions of unprivileged children.

Representational image.

We all know that this is the crucial learning stage of children, if they are left behind due to some digital resources or technologies, then it is a blot on our great nation. In the future, many problems will arise like increasing drop-out rates, not having strong foundation skills, lack of understanding in their subjects, and many more.

In such a situation, how can the government, local NGOs, and ed-tech institutions help them?

The imperative is on the government, ed-tech institutions, and NGOs to create such a mechanism through which we will be able to provide equal facilities to these underprivileged children to not face such problems in the future.

For this, ed-tech institutes or mobile industry, to take care of children’s problems, they should make such devices for education to support apps, files, and other content related to their education. They should provide such devices to these children so that people of the low-income community can also give this device to their children, which will prove to be very helpful in their education in the future. In this way, ed-tech industries can prepare a bridge between these children and education in the future by preparing such devices.

NGOs can set up a community tuition centre in which we can generate some local volunteers with local NGOs to lead this community tuition centre free of cost. And they can also provide them with some study material which they can use. And the government should prepare some better guidelines for them, which should be prepared to keep in view their difficulties and keeping in mind their future and future of our nation.

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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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