Education is a human right. This has been recognised by various conventions across the world. The Right to Education Act in our country also stems from this understanding. But have you ever thoroughly engaged with this thought of education being a human right? What is the potential or rather value that education holds that makes it essential for a human life?
A lot of us lead a life where our social location by virtue of our various identities like class, caste, religion, gender, region etc. has made education a non-negotiable. A child who is born, at some stage has to go to school. There is no two ways about it. We are also well aware that there is a large population out there for whom this is not true and accessing educational opportunities is still an uphill battle. But if one has to address one question, which is, what is the value of education to all sections of our society, what would be the various conversations that would emerge?
Is the value of education to be able to earn a livelihood? Is the value of education to gain a social status? Does the value of education lie in being able to make informed choices for oneself? Or does the value of education lie in the ability make meaning of everything around us? Or is it all of this and more?
Let me give you a bit of a context to all the questions that I am raising. Breakthrough India along with partner organisations is running an Adolescent Empowerment Programme in Uttar Pradesh. The aim is to reach 400,000 adolescents through this programme and empower them. As a human rights organisation, we believe that adolescence is a critical juncture in an individual’s life and adolescents as a group are a critical section for the society. If we envision change, it has to be rooted at this critical juncture in an adolescent’s life.
The course that a young life takes can be determined by the support the young person receives. The programme calls out, ‘De Taali – banegi baat saath-saath’, asking people to support these young lives by helping them to eventually be able to demand and access gender equality in health and education in their homes and community for themselves and others.
This year the focus of our programme is education. We are currently running a #DeTaali campaign on ground and online and the focus is on the value of education in an adolescent’s life.
While I have stated above why working with adolescents is important for Breakthrough, what I wish to now do is to make us reflect on what adolescence was or is for us?
I remember adolescence as a time when suddenly there were a lot of changes that were happening in my body. I remember is as a phase when I started discovering my sexuality (a term I learnt much later). I remember it as a phase when I started forming opinions about things. The quest to define myself had fastened and suddenly a sense of self (My room, My friends, My tastes) had strengthened. My 23 year old self also acknowledges that it was a confusing and vulnerable phase.
So what would be the the value of education in adolescent’s life? Our focus on ground in the seven districts In Uttar Pradesh is to ensure that adolescents don’t drop out of school and finish school education and also discover further educational or professional opportunities. We are targeting the different factors that can hinder an adolescent from going to school, especially adolescent girls who are more vulnerable. This will reflect in our hyperlocal campaign which are being planned by four districts addressing the issue of lack of toilets or toilets being shut in schools which have a direct impact on adolescent girls dropping out from school.
We also want to understand the value of education in an adolescent’s life who is in a better situation when it comes to accessing educational opportunities. Our digital campaign will focus on this thread targeting adolescents and educators (parents and teachers). We hope to engage in conversations about how an education system determines an adolescent’s aspirations and life choices. Further, for an adolescent who is grappling with body, sexuality and gender, how does our current education system support an adolescent during this phase? What ideas of gender does the education system propagate? The objective is to examine the education system’s relevance for an adolescent in our country through conversations and also engage in questions such as the meaning of education for people in our society and how that percolates down to the an adolescent specifically.
Adolescence is a phase when all of us are at a critical crossroad, forming a sense of self and figuring out the world around us. We are confused and vulnerable. At a stage when everyone wants to know what we want to achieve in life including ourselves, what value does education hold? Join us for the next two months as we explore this overarching question layer by layer. Share with us your experiences, views, opinions. Let’s get together and find ways of how a young person can be supported to ensure her/his well being. #DeTaali?