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Is The New Education Policy 2020 Truly As Reformative As The MHRD Says It Is?

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Taking a drastic step, the Union cabinet has taken a shift from the 1986 policy by making a pitch for a 5+3+3+4 design responding to the age groups 03-08 years (foundational stage), 08-11 years (preparatory), 11-14 years (middle), and 14-18 (secondary).

As the preschool education for children of the ages 03-05 has also been brought under the ambit of formal schooling, the mid-day meal programme shall be extended to preschool children with children until the level of primary will be taught either in their mother tongue and regional tongue. Interestingly, under the four-year undergraduate programme in Delhi University as per the guidelines of National Education Policy, 2020 the students can exit after one year with a certificate, after two years with a diploma, and after three years with a degree of bachelors. During the vice chancellorship of Professor Dinesh Singh, there was a lot of uproar against the FYUP ( Four Year Undergraduate Programme) being later held by the centre in 2014.

Will NEP Push For Inclusivity or Work Against It?

The state of education in India
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The argument was that it will open the door of possibilities for the students in upgrading their analytical calibre and capacity building upon their academic and research potentials for them to become productive and valuable citizens of the country. Providing impetus to the current policy outcome, NEP’s objective is to overhaul the shape and structure of the existing educational faculties and institutions- in terms of ensuring participation and representation of each and every strata and section of the population.

The master’s programme will continue to function as they were doing earlier but the focus will be on encouraging the student to opt for Direct PhD courses and programme. In universities like Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge pursuing research after completing masters is one of the most common practices. Through this, students get a chance and occasion to explore the available options. They can fine-tune their ability, action and approach.

Transformation In Indian Universities Will Not Be Easy- You Have To Take Socio-political And Economic Considerations

But, for our universities, transformation is going to be mammoth and herculean considering the prevalence of wider gaps illustrated in the Sociology of community, Geography of location, Economics of income and Politics of identity. Restricting access to a wide variety, be it for affordable housing and healthcare, cheap education and above all, basic minimum dignity for survival, sustenance and livelihood is almost missing from our scene.

Indian education sector's journey of evolution in last 70 years
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As with the ruling regime at the Centre proposing their faith in the neoliberal core of crony capitalism and privatization education is but both a casualty and commodity to turn us into disciplined, obedient and conscientious consumers. Priorities other than being a rightful citizen excites and inspires our thought process and wisdom as we give up on interrogating and investigating the claims made on the part of the state failing to make any dialogue and deliberation.

This is though natural given the tendency and characteristics of the modern-day state like India is no exception with a populist right-wing government and authority at the helm of affairs intent upon doing away with the constitutional sets of morality and ethics. This could be broadly understood by the attempts being made by the ruling dispensation to do away with the merits and benefits of social welfare provisions and programmes designed for the socially and economically deprived, dislocated and vulnerable sections of the society.

Education Is A Harbinger Of Social Change, So How Can The NEP Separate The State From Society?

How will we be able to justify affirmative actions if reservations are attempted to be done away with impacting their entry to seats of higher education? Secondly, this will prove to be detrimental to their class and groups interests, rights and objectives. Education is a harbinger of social change and transformation for other backward and scheduled castes in the country as any palpable shift in the policy on education should not be seen isolating and excluding them from the mainstream.

Reimagining Education in New India | IndiaFactsIndiaFacts
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Look at how private educational hubs by way of donations purposely admit scores of students in professional and non-professional courses as one,s merit and ranking at all matter. In this scenario how can we imagine spaces of presence and participation of scheduled caste and other backwards castes in premier and top-ranking private universities and colleges if not for the intervention by the agencies and apparatus of the state?

The whole idea of granting autonomy to the UGC recognized colleges in Delhi University brews a great sense of discomfort for humble background students especially for those hailing from reserved community denied affordable access to research and academics unable to pay the price for it. When during the lockdown it was found how the digital divide unequally affects and influences us in many different ways and manners despite the assurances by our Prime Minister on the promotion of Digital India.

There exists monumental mismanagement in each and every policy action and decision if we were to make an overview of the much-hyped GST and demonetization legislation as there is an urgent need to correct the ills for presenting a sound and substantial policy pitch abstaining from procedural rhetorics, techniques and tactics as the centre ought to take steps rectifying their repeated errors.

Policy legislations should represent the faith and beliefs of all the stakeholders with a proper set of framework and guidelines.  Consultations and dialogue with experts and eminent luminaries will certainly be advantageous in the long run. Also, the government should give up on its high handedness when it comes to handling the policy affair by sidelining the senior officers and bureaucrats who informally act as spokesperson of the Centre.

Concerned ministries and departments should own the blame and charge for fixing and plugging the loopholes by not passing the bucks if for the faulty implementation of any programme and policy legislation. NEP is bold and better on paper, but practically lacks reason and rationale which ought to be addressed and dispelled by a panel and board of experts and educationist- if the centre is willing to walk the tightrope becoming their new normal.

Dear government, any policy statement should reflect the sentiments of the people as there ought to be an assessment and scrutiny of the impacts and challenges presented by it. In the case of the NPE, an attempt should be made to arrive at a consensus.

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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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