A Student from One of the Best Colleges in the Country

— By Ritika

Last year I got admitted to one of the best colleges in our country, ranked according to all kinds of government and private agencies. The college believes only in meritocracy. To get admission, all you need are high percentages and approximately 20 thousand as admission fees and just a little luck to be on time for the admission before all seats quickly get filled. And then when you actually start experiencing college life from inside, some ugly truths start revealing themselves. This is specific to someone who comes from a lower socio-economic background, mostly from a lower-middle class or poor family. The first few weeks in college seriously takes you to journey back to your school and force you to ask, what exactly did you do in school, what a farce it really was? Your classmates are so ahead of you in everything and you find it so difficult to actually fit in.

Students need holistic development right from the start of their academic life. Because of their different socioeconomic backgrounds, some may prosper in augment of their knowledge, skills and experience that they receive from their families and networks, but others may lack those Classrooms are always diverse, students with different backgrounds bring different talents and skill sets with them. Unfortunately, most of our schools don’t have avenues to nourish these talents and skillsets.

For example, students must experience fear of the stage and should brainstorm for ideas but due to schools’ narrow focus on only educational attainment based on rote learning, students never understand their own self-confidence and self-esteem while in school. Once they enter the ‘real world’, they suffer tremendously because they are not prepared. They experience multiple difficult situations like not getting internship opportunities because their resume only displays their only their education qualifications. On the other hand, students with a well-off socioeconomic background who studied with all smart class facilities and had done extracurricular activities and experienced different exposures, get internship easily based on “fare” logic.

Sitting in a classroom, seeing your teacher and other classmates conversing fluently in English whereas you are struggling to form a sentence is immensely humiliating. The whole time you keep wondering where exactly you went wrong to be not as smart as the majority of your classmates. You feel dejected, humiliated, unwanted and worse undeserving all at the same time.

The college experience has a great deal of importance for the friendship and comradeship you form. But that also gets hampered for someone not sharing the same privilege as most of their elite classmates in one of the prominent educational institutions following the principle of meritocracy. Talking about all these experiences and openly discussing the factors run behind student’s background with due respect and acceptance is the least we could do for the situation.

About the Author

Ritika is an alumnus of Mahamaya Balika Intercollege and is an active member of the Delek Education Foundation Community Library. She is pursuing Journalism at Lady Sri Ram College for Women.

Sports Education in India

–By Poulomi Kundu

Sports Education in Curriculum: Does including Sports as a subject leverage its actual potential in moulding young minds?  

Traditionally, sports have never been an integral part of Indian educational system. Just having Physical Education (PE) classes in schools without any comprehensive and inclusive curriculum framework does not address the needs of children of different ages and capabilities.

A comprehensive sports education policy is necessary

According to the government’s Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey in October 2019, in India almost 1 in 10 children, between 5-9 years were found to be pre-diabetic and 1% were diabetic. About 5% of children and adolescents, between 5-19 years, were overweight. Thus the fact concludes that a healthy lifestyle is the need of this hour. 

The first basic learning that sport teaches is the importance of a fit body that further leads to development of focus and concentration. Here comes the importance of introducing a perfect framework of sport in school. The basis of sports education should start from school that can inculcate the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in children and their parents.

As life has become more and more stressful, sports teach stress management and the art of taking ownership of success as well as failure. The life skills of self motivation, determination and leadership are well-laid out by sports. Through a planned training process, sports can instil the qualities of camaraderie and teamwork that automatically teach a child management strategies. So in a nutshell we can infer that sport is one thing that builds in fitness, strength, stamina, aptitude, adaptability, fearlessness and independence- all those specific qualities needed for a person to be successful in any field. 

Change in mindset 

Our traditional society did not see sport as a favourable profession because of its volatile outcome.  Understanding the importance of sports in the betterment of students’ overall growth has been a very recent observation among Indian parents. This is probably due to some remarkable achievements of Indian sportspersons in different disciplines. Indian sportspeople are far more competitive and confident in the global arena in recent times, and that has immensely helped in changing the mindset of parents.  

Parents are now concerned about the holistic development of their children. It is a development that can be rooted from school. But while we discuss grassroot-level developments, we never talk about a strong curriculum for sports. Here comes the role of the government; that remains the key. A massive support from the government is necessary for making sports accessible to everyone.

Governmental steps

In 1984, a National Sports Policy was formulated for the first time in India to raise the standard of sports in the country. However, the goals and objectives in the Policy were not substantially laid. 

In 2011, the Central Government, in conjunction with the State Governments, the Olympic Association (IOA) and the National Sports Federations enhanced the existing Policy by ‘broad basing’ in order to reach rural areas, remote areas, and youth and sports clubs. Simultaneously, Sports and Physical Education (SPE) was integrated with the educational curriculum, making it a compulsory subject of learning up to the Secondary School level.

This policy led to a positive response among schools and students and they became more cognizant of the benefits of sports in education. But the need sustained as a concrete framework still did not exist. 

Khelo India Scheme   

In 2017, the national government introduced the Khelo India Scheme with a major objective to support India’s youth with funds, high-quality training and top-notch infrastructure in order to get international sporting exposure. The scheme also aims to develop, popularise and encourage participation in those sports that do not receive enough attention.

Khelo India Scheme was started with a total budget allocation of Rs. 1756 crore. In the 1st Khelo India Youth Games 2018, students from selected schools below the age of 17 years competed for 209 gold medals across 16 sports. In individual sports, top 8 sportsperson from the School Games Federation of India’s National School Games, 4 nominations from Federation, 1 from Central Board of Secondary Education, 1 from the host state and 2 wild card entries are selected. In team sports, the top 4 from the National School Games, 2 nominations by the Federation, 1 from the host State and 1 from the organising committee are selected. 

In the 2020 edition of the Games, close to 6,800 athletes from 37 states and union territories competed across 20 sports disciplines. The Olympic-like atmosphere is an ideal setting for the bright young talents to get an exposure that is truly international. The Khelo India Youth Games has been a successful attempt to highlight the present-changed sports scenario of India. 

But a complete framework for sports education was still missing from the scenario. Under the New Education Policy of 2020, sport is included as an integral part of the curriculum where it should not be further treated as an extracurricular activity but has to be accepted as a part of the overall education system.

Inclusion of sport in the New Education Policy can become successful only when it would be ensured that everyone in school plays sport compulsorily. But that should be in such a way that everyone falls in love and follows it passionately to a certain extent. 

The formative years of a student always need a teacher who elaborately guides him. That should be for sports too. There should also be an extensive collaboration between schools, especially government schools, and sports academies for proper facilities, infrastructure and trained coaches. In remote areas, if academies are not available at vicinity, then the government should come up with their own sports centres or can appoint emerging sports management companies to enhance sporting facilities in those areas. Nelson Mandela once addressed a group of young students by saying that there were future doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals but all of them could actually become what they are once they use the life skills and attitudes learnt from playing sports in school. Thus it is a full-proven fact that sports need to be at equal footing as any academic subject. The underlying message is that  while it is a duty of the government to develop a broad level framework, the implementation is the responsibility of school management. This implementation is perfectly aligned with the improvement of overall progress of sport in our country.

Cover Image: Kreedon.com

Author Bio

Poulomi Kundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. After her post- graduation, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata.

She has made a film on the Watershed Management Programmes of West Bengal, a documentary on ‘Bhalopahad’– a registered society that works for the social upliftment and has also directed a short docu-feature ‘Passion’ that is online on youtube platform ‘Frames I’. She directed a 10-minute documentary on 10 Years of Pickleball in India that is produced by AIPA. As an ardent sports lover, she runs ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.

What Are We Invisibilizing in Our EE Curriculum?

–By Santanu Ghosh

As the global pandemic rages on, we are yet to come to terms with this invisible enemy that has claimed nearly a million lives worldwide. Theories abound as to where it originated, but there is little doubt that the spread of the virus has been aided by poor environmental regulations. The CDC and several other environmental agencies have for the last decade issued warnings about the rising temperature and fluctuating precipitation patterns, and its emerging role in disease transmission. India is currently tethering on the second spot in number of cases, beaten only by the United States of America. This is a grim reminder that infectious diseases do not respect international borders. Social media has interpreted this catastrophe either as a fortunate blessing that has given the Earth time to recover from years of human exploitation, or as a premediated attack by nature on the parasitic humans. The internet was flooded, at a point, with images of dolphins returning to the coast of Bengal or before-after shots of rivers being detoxified. Now that being interested in the welfare of the environment has become the “politically correct” stance, it is important to address the quality of environmental education being delivered in schools and the obvious ways it manifests in the lives of working class people.

My earliest memory of an Environmental Science (EVS) class is our physics teacher (who was officially in charge of the class) promising us that he would give us all the questions to the final paper, if we let him teach physics instead. This, coupled with the lackluster way in which the rest of the geography/biology/chemistry teachers taught us EVS, left me with a deep disregard for the subject. In school, we didn’t really consider it a subject at all. It was tantamount in importance to physical education. The subject was taken as lightly by the teachers as it was by the students. This teaching environment fails the students in its attempt to instill even a perfunctory understanding of EVS.

India is one of the few countries in the world where Environmental Education (EE) is compulsory through all levels of formal education. This was a decision made by the Supreme Court in 2003, and within a year a curriculum was drawn up, books were published, and science teachers were recruited to be repurposed as EE teachers. Within a decade, schools scrapped EE as a separate subject, instead opting to “infuse” it with the other sciences. The idea was to reduce the burden of an additional subject, while also making sure that students didn’t neglect it, by making it part of the biology, language and the social science papers. This decision, however, did not have its intended effect. The course content was severely reduced and important environmental movements were not made aware to generations of young adults. The Bishnoi community that revolted in the 1700s, or the tribal community of Singbhum that agitated in the Jungle Bachao Andolan, took a back seat to more basic facts about Nature. This is the crux of the problem. Modern day environmental education has long forgotten that the ecosystem involves the interaction of living beings with their physical environment. Environmental movements are rooted in the people that comprise them. The apolitical nature of modern-day EE undermines the efforts of the small, underrepresented communities in the struggle for a clean environment. 

For generations, these communities have been aware of a symbiotic relationship they shared with nature. Some considered nature sacred, because everything required to sustain life can be found within the folds of nature, thus imbuing it with a raw power only associated with deities. They took it upon themselves to preserve the environment and utilise resources in a sustainable way, such that future generations are not deprived. Thus, the earliest examples of ecosystem conservation are deeply rooted in the people, and hence are, in essence, very political. In contrast, the current state of EE is rooted in academics. There is no sense of urgency when it comes to standing together as a community in order to take a step in the direction of positive change and a sustainable future, much like in academics. Instead, what we get is a theoretical exercise, with little or no connection to the people actively involved in conservation efforts, whether that be in the past or present. It is imperative that the youth of today know and understand the sacrifices of the numerous small communities that form the core of the present-day environmental conservation movement, even though they don’t get as much media attention as Facebook vegans.

I mentioned how a certain section of society believes that the pandemic is inherently a blessing for the environment. Grassroot activists and civil society organisations would beg to differ. Under the distracting shroud of the coronavirus, the government has granted environmental approval to a great number of controversial projects, causing uproar and deep resentment in the communities affected. An example is the Hubballi-Ankola railway line project in Karnataka, which would involve the felling of 200,00 trees and displace several hundred Adivasi communities. The project has been denied approval since 1998, due to its wide ecological ramifications, but was given the green light on March 20, just days before the total lockdown was imposed. Similarly, the Etalin Hydroelectric project in the state of Arunachal Pradesh was granted permission to fell more than 270,000 trees, and thereby irreversibly destroy the biodiversity of the region, as well the lives of several north-eastern tribes. Preventative social distancing laws, albeit necessary, also cripple the ability to organise protests against such projects. With the lack of such protests, indigenous territories are being encroached upon, and environmental protection laws are being diluted, in the name of “industrial development” and “economic growth”. It becomes clear that the people who contribute the most in the struggle to preserve the environment are the same people who are affected disproportionately by relentless attacks against it.

The United States are unequivocally the greatest contributors to ecological catastrophe, whether directly or indirectly. Nowhere in its great history, after the massacre of the Native Americans, do we see environmental conservation efforts until recently. A small group of people in the late 1900s started to believe that it was time to focus on preserving nature. This is in stark contrast to our own history, which is littered with evidence, going back centuries, of environmental conservation efforts led by numerous grassroot communities. This recent interest in the environment has grown since and has even trickled down to our country, where we find social media filled with pleas to not use plastic and purchase charcoal bamboo toothbrushes. But it is imperative that we not look to the west while adopting this ideal. We must look back at our own history. I remember my grandfather brushing his teeth with a datun, which is a tool made from tree twigs. My father, till this day, goes to the local grocer with two to three cloth bags under his arms. Our ancestors didn’t need an ad campaign to tell them what was sustainable. The privileged west has only recently started feeling the threat associated with ecological destruction, which is why we see a spotlight on the movement now, after centuries of the movement having existed. The west vies for systemic change in this regard. It paints a pretty picture of how policy changes can save the earth and we have 10/15/25/50/100 years to do it, depending on the theoretical model used to draw the conclusion. While systemic policy changes are justifiable in the short-term, the long-term changes we should be striving for are ideological in nature. 

The poor, underrepresented communities of our country have taught us that it is possible to develop an ideology that allows humans to live in harmony with nature. All that we can hope for is our education system will also, someday, teach us the same. All of history’s greatest movements were ideological movements; if we really do want to see positive change, we must submit to an education that teaches us how to build this ideology. 

Author Bio

Santanu is a fourth-year graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He completed his undergraduate education in Biochemistry under Presidency University and moved to IIT Bombay for his Master’s degree. His current primary research focuses on developing drugs for female reproductive cancers. Santanu is also a board member of the UIUC Science Policy Group and engages in several environment-related advocacy efforts. He lives in Urbana with his two black cats, Shadow and Crowley, and his instagram is comprised entirely of cats, food, and sunsets.

‘Digital Divide’ for Indian Schools; and Some Other Related Things

An Incomplete Reading List

This was conceived as an article initially. However, as the months rolled and the sense of uncertainty increased, schools grew more and more uncompromising towards students and teachers, the debilitating effects of which I could see first-hand at home. With rising anxiety and the undue stress of unreasonable work hours, unnecessary workload, strange software updates and next-to-none professional support, it became almost impossible to continue writing. Here is then, a reading list, which was supposed to be my bibliography. What I could have written, others write better.

  1. This video gives an overview of what “digital divide” means in the Indian school education context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAT8t0bK4ik
  2. This is a comprehensive report and survey of the (lack of) digital infrastructure in Indian homes; it speaks about the gendered nature of this lack as well: https://www.ideasforindia.in/topics/human-development/disparity-in-access-to-quality-education-and-the-digital-divide.html
  3. PARI’s report on rural digital divide: I call this a report because it has “data”. However, it humanises the data and statistics by reporting individual stories and accounts of people and their lives and how they are responding to “digital partition”(The latter term is necessarily unsettling with its traumatic evocations). : https://ruralindiaonline.org/articles/schoolkids-digital-divide-to-digital-partition/
  4. One is also reminded of Devika Balakrishnan in this respect: https://scroll.in/article/963681/kerala-students-suicide-is-yet-another-reminder-of-indias-digital-divide
  5. For the girl student, digital divide can mean the end of education altogether : https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/23/india-girls-schooling-online-struggle/
  6. For differently-abled students, online classes have been a nightmare: https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/latest-studies/story/disabled-students-at-risk-of-dropping-out-as-they-are-unable-to-cope-with-online-learning-report-1701761-2020-07-18
  7. This is an article about Kashmir, which had had internet shutdowns for over a year now: https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/e-learning-and-digital-divide-in-the-pandemic/
  8. While on one hand digital divide means lack of infrastructural access, on the other, it also means lack of familiarity and orientation to exist in the digital space. Private schools have been burdening teachers with enormous amount of work load, with little to none pedagogic support. The mental health conversation about teachers’ stress is not even initiated. Some examples: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/stress-filled-life-for-teachers-at-virtual-classes/articleshow/77176412.cms
  9. On top of this, teachers are facing rampant cyber harassment, which is a symptom of both lack of pedagogic support from institutions, and lack of cyber crime awareness. This is nightmarish: https://scroll.in/article/961738/for-many-of-indias-teachers-online-classes-amid-lockdown-have-been-an-awful-experience
  10. Proctoring exams have begun in some private schools, and the surveillance model is adding to a lot of undue stress on students. For lack of reports on this, I have added a non-India centric article. I heard about a private school in Delhi, where the AI shrieked “CHEATING” if anybody entered the room where the student was giving exams: https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/29/21232777/examity-remote-test-proctoring-online-class-education.
  11. One must talk about the mental health of everyone involved in school education in this uncertain scenario: https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/columnists/by-invitation/uncertainty-over-school-reopening-mental-health-of-children-needs-attention/articleshow/76266031.cms
  12. An important blog article that appeals to every stakeholder of school education(teachers, students and guardians) to be patient with each other. Absolutely agree with these lines here, “Let us be clear, as an employer, the school has to take care of employment, not the customer i.e. parents/students. But, what has happened is that the schools have pitched the teachers cleverly against parents (ever seen a parent writing emotional letters to his/her organization’s customers?). In this disaster, parents and teachers need to be together to overcome the profit-minded mentality, which does not exist in a teacher’s pure mind.” : https://medium.com/@digital_plus_mad/private-schools-in-india-and-the-corona-lockdown-98598d1fc3fe
  13. What the digital divide has revealed about the divide that was already present in Indian classrooms: https://www.financialexpress.com/education-2/online-learning-and-education-for-all-during-and-after-covid-19-pandemic/2021940/
  14. An intervention that have helped to some extent: http://www.anticaste.in/left-government-of-kerala-builds-12250-study-rooms-for-dalit-students-8500-more-in-the-offing/
  15. Other ways in which teachers are helping: https://indianexpress.com/article/education/west-bengal-parents-collect-printed-study-materials-from-madrassas-to-close-digital-divide-6526178/

Image source: https://medium.com/@ShwetaBarupal/digital-divide-a-critical-analysis-7156333237f7

Bio

Titas Bose is a PhD student at University of Chicago, working on post-independent Bengali children’s fiction. She completed her Mphil from Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2018, which was a study of Bengali folktale anthologies for children in the twentienth century. She has worked as a English teacher in Cambridge School, Sriniwaspuri and then as a Critical Writing Preceptor at Ashoka University.

She is a co-founder of the Delek Archives.

Creative Responses on Dalit Feminism By Teenagers: Part 3 of 3

This is one of the microadvocacy projects by the teen fellows of Orikalankini’s 13 week teen fellowship. Each week the teens meet an activist(Anannya G MadonnaAbirami Jotheeswaran and Priyadharshini) from a marginalised group to hear from them and express or apply their learnings in an art form. Applications for this is free but rigorous. The fellowship opens in June every year. Please follow orikalankini on facebook and instagram to be updated.

For this assignment, each fellow had to research questions for and have a telephonic interview with a Dalit feminist. We also had an activist speak to them and answer their questions for an hour. They have expressed their learnings in various forms.

By Thanvishree:

The image shows –
A woman banging her head as she is tired of being unjustified, being a dalit women. The reason for depicting it this way is that every dalit woman is facing so much violence for being a lower caste women and struggling everyday for her rights, respect and equality.

  1. The session was so interesting and I changed my perspective of seeing things. I never thought how being woman and being dalit makes the difference- Indian feminisim has no place for dalit women.They are deemed impure because of lack of ritual purity. CASTEIST PATRIARCHY is scary. Movies and the media representation of dalit women is absent.
  2. My interview with Dalit Activist taught me – liberty of marrying a dalit women is still not accepted by upper-caste families. Being educated parents of groom they reject their love when they came to know that she is dalit. They were afraid what people in the society and their community would consider their family as impure. Visualizing the mental status of women made me restlessness.

By Hiba:

By Saumya:

The image has a huge bold text : SMASH the Brahminical Patriarchy.

But upon a closer inspection, one can see the faint text in green. See if you can find them all!

Namely the words: oppression, cast away, excluded, snatched opportunities, historical injustice, bias, violence and discrimination. The reason for the text being formatted this way is because people fail to see the historical injustice done upon Dalits. Also the colour green is used for the so-called “ever-green” history.

The session was really informant and deeply touching. Dalit Feminism needs to be a part of each one of our feminisms. If your feminism isn’t inclusive then your feminism isn’t empowering or helpful. It’s time we learnt and informed ourselves.

My artwork aims to show that what I’ve learnt is: Most of the times other communities’ struggles are not really visible to us. The first step is to see that, acknowledge that and work towards that.

Artist Bios

I am Thanvishree, I shine when I use my passion to use my technological skills and communication skills, being eager to learn, face challenges in enforcing the idea of equality instead of patriarchy in people at young age.And educate elders how harmful patriarchal behavior is for society.

Instagram Id:thanvishreerk_goud

Fundraiser for the work I do: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-thanvishree?mlp_referrer_id=3660100&utm_medium=created&utm_source=virtual_bank_account

Hi everyone! My name is Hiba. I’m 16 and I’m originally from Sril lanka. But I live in the US now. I love all types of movies bollywood, Hollywood, C-drama, K-drama, you name it:)(the good kind😅). I like thrillers, comedy, romance, action, and etc. Honestly anything but horror. I enjoy listening to music and eating food:) I lose track of time when I’m engaged in deep and fun conversations with friends!

Fundraiser for the work I do: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-thanvishree?mlp_referrer_id=3660100&utm_medium=created&utm_source=virtual_bank_account

I am Saumya Shinde from Mumbai. I am a 16 year old participant from the 13 week global teen fellowship by Orikalankini. It is changing the conversation around sexuality and menstruation.

I shine the best when I use my research and my communication skills to reform and inform the world to dismantle the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, internalised misogyny abd rape culture.

You can reach me via;
Instagram: @_saumya_2805
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saumya.shinde.735
Gmail: contact.saumyashinde@gmail.com

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