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Why Online Learning Platforms Must Come Together To Reach Kids In Rural Areas

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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.

The pandemic has hit us hard in such a way that even survival has become a struggle in today’s scenario. We are really cracking our heads for ideas to make us feel safe and protected from this pandemic. It is really heart-breaking to see the news of deaths and rising infection cases every day on news channels. It is making us realise the importance of our life each second.

Amid this situation, one of the important thought-provoking factors is: how has the educational system shaped up in rural areas during Covid-19? Are kids in rural areas getting equal facilitates to continue their education without any barrier or hassle, just like children in urban areas are?

I have been going through various news articles available on the internet and in newspapers, and I am really grief-stricken and saddened by the current condition of education in rural areas. A leading news portal brought out a survey on this important aspect and put forth the fact: “Children in rural areas have limited access to remote learning amidst Covid-19.”

Kids in rural areas do not deserve to have their education come to halt due to the pandemic. Representational image.

Isn’t it heart-breaking! Education is an important pillar in an individual’s life to succeed. It is just like food and life to our brain and thinking process. We all are very much aware of the pros of education in an individual’s life, but what if this important part is snatched away due to some really hard force?

This survey by the news portal states that nearly 20% of the children in rural areas have no access to textbooks. A small percentage of children in almost every state in India has no access to any educational option, which accounts for a huge number when totalled at the national level. This becomes the reason for life getting disrupted or destroyed at a later stage in life. But what are we doing to overcome this? Have any steps been taken to overcome this devastating situation?

Having gone through various surveys and reports, I can sum up that due to the pandemic, houses with no internet connection, electronic devices (such as laptop/computer/phone or books are having a tough time coping with education, thus making it a real struggle to move forward in life. The kids are unable to learn and imbibe internal growth. They are unable to think differently. They see their future in darkness. They are not being able to cope up with others and face rejection from employers.

In many houses, 18 to 20-year-old students are the sole bread earners of their families. They are unable to find a good or even a decent job and have to settle for a minimal job just because of their incomplete educational degree due to the pandemic. Students are dying by suicide as they are not able to see any future.

I recently gave a motivational speech on the occasion of Children’s Day for a leading educational platform that works towards providing online education to children in rural areas. This is made possible by connecting teachers or individuals passionate about teaching to these kids. In an interaction with the children, I found that most of their friends and relatives in nearby rural areas are unable to connect with our platform or any other online education platform, and hence, have not received any education this year. Their studies are at halt since last year. Their families are not very well educated to guide them, and neither are they receiving any informal guidance from anyone else.

Image source: Flickr

Upon asking what measures the kids are taking to overcome this halt, a 12-year-old child said, “Didi, kuch nahi kar paa re hai. Woh log aise hi ghar par hai kyunki un log ke paas koi vi upaye nahi hai. Phone agar rehta hai to bijli ke karan internet nai rehta. Aisa nahi hai ki padhne ka mann nahi hai, par halaton ke wajh se kuch kiya nahi jaa raha hai (Didi, they aren’t able to do anything. Those kids are sitting idle at home and have no idea what to do further. Even if they gave a phone in their home, there is no electricity to access the internet. It is not like they do not want to study, but because of the pandemic, there is nothing that can be done right now).”

These lines by a 12-year-old brought tears to my eyes, but I couldn’t show it in front of them as it would only have demotivated them instead of keeping their spirits high. I would like to appreciate all online educational platforms for doing a great job, but are these platforms able to get through the majority of the population? They are sincerely not.

I really believe and feel that if people are given authority, they will bring ideas and work through their resolutions virtually. Maybe then we’ll be able to cover up the situation bit-by-bit to reach a larger extent. These platforms can at least be deliver basic education options to cope up for the time being, so that a child’s future doesn’t get destroyed just like that.

We all need to fight in this together. I am working towards searching and accumulating all educational platforms to help reach out to those children who are unable to access the world through the internet. Their education as been interrupted and they are unable to mend ways to cope with this. I feel that education is an important aspect and this pandemic is not only destroying lives through infection, but also by snatching the basic needs of an individual.

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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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