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Privatizing Education Will Mean Fewer Girls Go To Schools

This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

Aishwarya Reddy, a student of Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi, died by suicide because she felt that she was becoming a financial burden on her family. Although she was enrolled in the 2nd best college in India, the subsidies provided to ease the pressure on her family was not enough. Her peers have blamed increasing privatization in the education sector as the cause which pushed her.

The economic divide in India, for ages, has pitted the have-nots against the have-alls in a fight tilted in the favor of the latter. But this divide is now creeping into the Indian education system, and girl students might have to face its repercussions in the form of isolation and lack of options.

This commercialization of education would only increase the cost of education and decrease the quality of education imparted, as found in a report by Unite4Education.

school girls

Quality Education Is Still Not A Priority!

The quality of education girls gain in schools has never been a priority for poor rural families, as indicated in research, “The poorest rural families must make hard choices about scarce resources and often choose to invest in private education for their sons over their daughters,” and thus “to be a girl significantly reduces the chances of attending LFP (low-fee private) schools.

With the commoditization of education, parents of such girls would further be pressured into discontinuing the education of their girl child as soaring costs would make it hard for them to ensure quality education.

What Privatization Means For Girls Regarding Their Education

The privatization of education would mean that the government would invest only in a few hand-picked institutions, and graduates from these institutions would suffice for the rapid economic growth of the country. But it would also mean that millions of girl students might lose out on an opportunity to attain subsidized education. This would only aggravate the dropout rate of girls aspiring to attain higher education.

Moreover, girls belonging to oppressed caste communities might find it even harder to access education as now a private collection of institution owners can guide the admission process and the fee structure, further increasing the hardships faced by these girls from segmented sections of the society.

Is It The Correct Time To Introduce Privatization?

With a receding GDP and the country’s economy facing a downward slump in covid times, the introduction of privatization in the education sector might go on to make it financially impossible for girls from marginalized communities to get themselves educated. Slated to see an increase of 20% in the dropout rates of school girls in the post-pandemic scenario, India needs to introduce capitalism in the education sector at bay for a while.

Is Privatization A Bad Idea Altogether?

It might be that the private schools that would be built can provide better facilities for hygiene and comfort of girl students such as hygienic drinking water, clean toilets, better classrooms, etc. It might also give them a chance to be a part of co-curricular activities that have been absent in schools’ current setup for the marginalized. It means that students might get access to libraries, better playgrounds, and better recreational activities, which might promote their urge to attend school.

The setting up of private schools in remote areas might also help girls who previously were not able to attend school because of the distance. This would also help ensure their safety as now their parents would not be afraid to send them to school. It would also increase the employment opportunities in the education sector. The money which the government would have spent on salaries, maintenance and infrastructure, can now be spent on helping poor girls in attaining an education from these private institutes.

What Should Be Done By The Government Instead Of Privatization?

But the cons of privatizing education far outweigh the pros. Education should be an avenue in which profit-making should not be of utmost importance. Private Institutions cannot function without some margin for profit. So, the government should try setting up semi-privatized institutions where students who can afford to get educated on their own are welcome, while some support and subsidies are provided to girl students from poor communities by the government.

The government cannot bridge the gap in literacy rates between girls from poor communities and girls from well-to-do families with the privatization of education. Instead, it should ensure strict monitoring and compliance to rules of the current staff entrusted with educating girls. It should also focus on improving the quality of education which the current schools provide by increasing budget allocations for education, rather than reducing it and looking for investments by profit-making and capitalist companies.

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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.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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