This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ayeshna Kalyan. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Here’s Why I Think Rural Government Schools In India Are Crumbling

More from Ayeshna Kalyan

We have always believed that quality education has the power to bring peace and steer progress in any community. Not only is it a shared concern but it is also a shared duty binding a society or a country. That education must be affordable and accessible to every child is a basic right assured by any democratic state to its people, like our own country. And yet, over the past few decades, the government schools in villages have remained the last resort for those unable to spend money on their child’s education.

Therefore, catering to children from caste and class minorities whose parents barely make the ends meet and so are not active players in their child’s education. Since we started working on rural education in Gharaunda block, Karnal district, Haryana, we have closely witnessed the web of complex and often intersecting challenges that government schools face. These challenges according to us can be mapped at three levels: School, Community, and Education department.

Challenges At The 3 Levels

The major challenges at the school level are low infrastructure, lack of motivation in teachers due to non-teaching responsibilities and low response from parents, poor learning environment, sub-quality of education delivery, lack of teachers creating extra workload on the staff. A 2010 report by the National Council for Teacher Education estimated that an additional one million teachers are required to be immediately inducted into the elementary school system across the country, to fulfill the RTE Act requirements.

A school-wise analysis based on the data provided by the District Information System for Education of 2009-10 indicates that only 4.8% of government schools have all nine facilities stipulated in the RTE Act. About 40% of primary schools had more than 30 students per classroom, and 60% had no electricity.


The challenges at the community level can be mapped as poor awareness levels, minimal response and interaction with the school, low levels of parental education, local community politics, and an overall negative perception about the government school as compared to a certain aspirational value attached with English-speaking private schools. In such a scenario, the inclusion of mother tongues by the National Education Policy 2020 is a welcoming change especially in a country like ours where diversity of language did not reflect in the education delivery of our mainstream education system.

The NEP 2020 has directed focus on students’ mother tongue as the medium of instruction. Though it continues to sticks to the ‘three-language formula’, it mandates that no specific language would be imposed on anyone. The policy indicates that wherever it is possible, the medium of instruction till at least Grade 5, but preferably up till Grade 8 and beyond, shall be the mother tongue or local language or regional language and both public and private schools are to follow this norm.

A majority of my own intervention villages are located on the Yamuna belt – a very backward location where in some villages not even a single person has been able to attend college. This has been a source of demotivation among the teachers and created a gap between school and community which also negatively impacts other areas pertaining to the overall school environment and children’s behavior. The communities are more interested in government subsidies and aid rather than taking accountability for their child’s performance.

Finally, the challenges at the Education department or government level plays a role of hindrance in creating a high-quality learning space for students at government schools. Policy decisions are often taken at the top-levels without involving the teachers nor considering their perspective, capabilities, or everyday challenges. Most teachers, especially at grassroots levels are not equipped to cope-up with the constant changes and amendments to education policies and deliverables.

Lack of capacity-building training, a dearth of policy-monitoring staff, teachers’ knowledge towards government schemes, low maintenance budget are some of the key challenges at the Education department level. The government often keeps provisions and funds for infrastructure but not for maintenance.

What Has To Be Done?

In any target area, one cannot hope to make a tangible change by only trying to impact one or a few components of development indicators. All inter-linked components must be worked on in a complimentary manner. For example – providing good sanitation infrastructure in a school is not enough for improving the health & hygiene of students. We also need to work on behavioral change among these students.

At the same time, improper sanitation facilities often result in low-attendance thereby adversely affecting the learning levels of students. The same goes for a policy or a scheme or a campaign. Once introduced, it is also important that the key stakeholders surrounding a particular policy or guideline are ‘informed ‘and ‘equipped’ to implement it effectively.

Here is a slightly different scenario. Let us talk about NGOs working in government schools. During our previous jobs at TISS, we used to visit NGOs as part of CSR monitoring and evaluation. We observed that the output of a single NGO’s project was visible but the outcome of the entire school was often neither measurable nor sustainable. Why even after several government aids and policies as well as NGO interventions would the outcome of school not be positive in the long-run was a question that stuck with me.

Moreover, multiple NGOs would be working in the same government school and yet, the school performance would not show much improvement. Our discussions with multiple NGOs showed that they worked in silos even after being in the same space. They would pick their specific themes or components and even though they are linked to one another – they are treated as separate fragments.

NGO A would not know what activities or work NGO B or NGO C would be undertaking in the same school they all work in. Similar trends can be seen with government departments or sub-departments on various occasions in terms of staying connected, informed, and posted or even exchange information with one another.

Rural Education And The Pandemic

A more recent example is the state of rural education during the pandemic. Since April 2020, there has been so much talk and buzz about digital education in India. In all honesty, the sudden shutdown of schools across the world was really a really complex and helpless situation. What was the journey of a rural school in India been like? The government of Haryana (SCERT) and government of India (NCERT) were switching to ICT and online resources -something that was a novelty for both rural teachers and children for whom “traditional” teaching-learning until now meant a classroom, a textbook, a blackboard and physical presence of one another.

We do need to remember that for a major part of our country, e-learning is a whole new way of teaching-learning process which needs proper intervention when you first introduce it to kids. The teachers especially need support. The first few weeks were clearly a phase of trials and experiments by the rural teachers for whom WhatsApp groups were now classrooms, teaching was capsuled into short videos and homework came through screenshots.

Take rural kids from primary and middle schools. All these years, they have associated learning with a school building, a teacher, and a blackboard. Add to that some books, stationery, and friends. To overnight switch to a phone, a virtual class, using apps they may or may not be familiar with, assigning homework through the phone was a very challenging situation to immediately adapt to. The effectiveness, regularity, and acceptance of e-learning among rural primary students throughout the pandemic remain a big question.

And then there is the subject of accessibility. Stemming up first and foremost from their remote geography itself. We at Varitra work in villages that are primarily agrarian and most govt-school children belong to families of small farmers or daily-wage laborers. Limited data access and signal reception, restricted mobile ownership with just one parent (often the father), unaffordability to pay for data service combined with harvesting seasons substantially rendered the scope and accessibility to any e-learning medium to a very small number of children. Our team took a short survey in July 2020 across 8 of our partner villages and found that approximately 55% of rural children have no access to any form of online education.

Improving the government system at the execution level is the need of the hour and at the same time, policy-making needs a more inclusive and collaborative approach. Civil societies can definitely play a positive role in bridging the gap between policy level and execution level of the government system and imbibe a sense of ownership among the citizens.

Co-written by Ayeshna & Baljeet (Founders, Varitra Foundation)


  • 15th Annual Report 2009-2010. Rep. National Council for Teacher Education. Web
  • Planning Commission. Government of India. Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012–2017): Social Sectors, Volume III. Web.
  • Hindustan Times, July 30, 2020


You must be to comment.

More from Ayeshna Kalyan

Similar Posts

By Olivia

By Shipra Gupta

By Simran Pavecha

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below