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

What Must We Do To Get Education Back On Track In The Wake Of Covid-19?

In the destructive wake of the coronavirus pandemic, some commentators have lamented that the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are now wholly unattainable and thus no longer applicable to the actual situations in various developing regions. This article is a refutation of this belief and promotes the idea that SDG targets in education must still be central to long-term education planning.

Though the road to attaining them may now be harder, the SDGs are ambitious targets that give planners an important standard to strive towards. These goals are not meant to encapsulate what is easy or possible. Attaining them is imperative, an end in itself, and our duty to those most in need around the world. In times of crisis such as these, the utility of these goals is in illuminating the actual work that must be done in real-life communities to make the progress we need.

It is integral that we acknowledge the real progress that has been made under the banner of these goals. In 2015, states from around the world made the historic commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, the fourth of which focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education.

The targets were ambitious from the outset; now, after the wide-reaching damages of this pandemic, they appear, in many cases, even more difficult to attain. But that makes it imperative to put in the work to bring us closer to these targets for the sake of the generation whose education depends on it.

We face many challenges today, but much progress has also been made. For instance, over the past years and decades, child literacy and enrollment rates have reached new heights, while the female-to-male ratio of students in primary and secondary classrooms has reached a stable parity.

The pandemic has also brought new challenges and trends to the forefront in areas like remote education, ICT in the classrooms, and student access to internet learning tools. It is important that we take stock of these changes by assessing the new means of pedagogy that have been adopted and where the deficits in capability lie.

Any crisis can also be seen as a turning point: this is a maxim that has been observed by historians, spiritual leaders, and other members of civil society. In a time of great social challenge and confusion such as this pandemic, it is difficult to imagine any opportunities for positive regrowth.

But the reality is that with each obstacle we face, we must make a choice of how we respond and how we will care for those who have been victimized. During a crisis, we build the world that the next generation will inhabit through each of these choices.

At times like these, it is important, now more than ever, to assist policy-makers in responding constructively to the present crisis. We must be clear-eyed about the negative impacts, especially on marginalized communities.

Schooling systems need immediate assistance in order to prevent immense academic setbacks for an entire generation. Simultaneously, long-term planning and deliberate investment are also required to ensure that the educational systems have the strength and resiliency to meet their respective populations’ future needs. The following are recommendations for how the international community and NGOs can target their assistance for both the short and the long term.

In the short term, a regionalized approach must be developed to reinforce education infrastructure on the ground. Because the needs of populations vary across regions and environments, any action taken to support education systems in the short term must be adapted to the needs of the local population, with a focus on marginalized communities. Where internet access exists, support should go towards developing ICT materials and ensuring teachers have high-quality ICT training; areas without internet access should receive investment in their capacity to produce and distribute self-instructional materials effectively.

Many marginalized demographics have suffered great setbacks during this pandemic. More efforts need to be targeted at them in the short term: for example, students with physical and developmental disabilities need more outreach to ensure that their educational needs are met, as do students in rural areas or living in migrant communities.

government school

The capacity to recruit and train quality teachers must be reinforced, especially in smaller and poorer communities. This is a bigger recommendation that will take more investment at the outset but is crucial to ensure the long-term success of the education systems in poorer economies. Teachers need more training in ICT pedagogy; while they have made a heroic pivot to teaching students remotely during this pandemic, more robust training in using technology for teaching will be needed for future classroom settings, pandemic or no.

Quality, low-barrier internet access must be a long-term priority for education development. Internet-based tools have been an exceedingly useful method of distance instruction during all points of the pandemic, giving students a way to take lessons and communicate directly with their teachers. But a large portion of students — especially those in rural areas or from poorer backgrounds — cannot access these benefits.

As students rely more and more on internet access to further their studies, it is imperative to upgrade the broadband infrastructure even outside of pandemic circumstances. Concurrently, the curriculum in internet usage must be brought up to speed, not just for the sake of technological literacy but also to ensure that students are taught responsible behaviour online as part of positive global citizenship.

Promote strengthened TVET institutions, especially for girls and other marginalized groups. While the exact impact is not yet known, TVET institutions were in vulnerable positions in some cases before the pandemic and will likely need support in the short and medium-term. Female students have especially shown lower enrolment rates in TVET institutions than their male counterparts. Aid should be targeted at providing scholarships, funding awareness campaigns, hiring new staff or contributing other resources as needed. By providing a step for youth between their academic and work careers, these schools will be an essential part of a healthy economic recovery from the pandemic.

You must be to comment.

More from Simi Veronica

Similar Posts

By Prashant Rai

By Sharik

By Anshrutha Shrinivas

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