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Four Indian varsities come together to launch ‘virtual university’ on European model

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Four Indian varsities will launch the project ‘EQUAL’ by the beginning of next year to offer a new concept of ‘online education’ to the Indian students.

The project EQUAL (Enhancing Quality, Access and Governance of Higher Education in India) will be a boon for the poor students who are long deprived from getting the taste of education, said a minister.

As per an official, the project will offer a blended learning platform (online plus face-to-face) for undergraduate students in India.

The four participating universities are, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, Ambedkar University, Delhi, University of Hyderabad and Shiv Nadar University in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.

“For India, the solution can’t be purely classroom nor purely online. It has to be a mix of both. Through EQUAL, students will have the desired mobility. We are planning to launch pilot courses by the end of this year or beginning of next year,” said Supriya Chaudhuri, faculty coordinator and project member from Jadavpur University.

“In addition, since it will be adopted by Indian varsities and colleges as part of their curriculum, it will not have the drawbacks of MOOCs — low completion rates and inadequate certification,” she said, adding the courses, designed in the Moodle software, will be free.

The project is funded by the European Union under its programme ‘Support to Indo-European Interactions in Higher Education,’ and the initiative is supported by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The administrative support is being provided by the British Council India’s division for Internationalising Higher Education.

The four Indian universities are working in collaboration with King’s College London and the University of Bologna, Italy.

The project mainly focused on four interdisciplinary areas-natural resources, environment and sustainable technology, human ecology, cultural studies and critical thinking.

“We urge universities and colleges to adopt this system so that students can have access to the best lectures and courses across India,” said Sugata Hazra, another project coordinator from Jadavpur University.

The university is hosting the project website and creating the e-learning platform to run online courses through virtual classrooms.

“The aim is to create partnerships between Europe and India, and between Indian universities, adapting the ‘Bologna Process’ to the Indian context,” said a professor of Jadavpur University.

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Focus on Menstrual Health Improving Education for Girls in Zambia

Chitentabunga Primary School, in rural Lusaka province, is one of the schools that has received reusable pads to distribute to its students

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Menstrual, Health, Zambian
FILE - Girls learn to make sanitary pads from imported water-proof materials in project sponsored by the Malawi NGO, Girls Empowerment Network (VOA / L. Masina) VOA

New health classes and government partnerships with not-for-profits focused on menstrual health are improving education for girls in Zambia.

In 2017, the government announced it would distribute free sanitary pads to girls in some rural and underserved areas. Two years later, menstrual hygiene management classes have been introduced in schools, and partnerships with organizations such as World Vision have brought reusable sanitary pads to rural communities.

Chitentabunga Primary School, in rural Lusaka province, is one of the schools that has received reusable pads to distribute to its students.

Educators at Chitentabunga say the pads have helped reduce absenteeism. In years past, 80 to 100 girls would miss classes at any given time due to menstrual issues across seven schools. Now, just five to 10 girls are out at any given time.

Menstrual, Health, Zambian
In 2017, the government announced it would distribute free sanitary pads to girls in some rural and underserved areas. Pixabay

“We used to have a lot of absenteeism, especially in mature girls, that is, girls that have started their menstrual periods. At a time when they go on their menstrual periods, these girls used to stay away from school,” Tyson Hachilangu, head teacher at Chitentabunga, said.

Girls at the school say the pads have improved their quality of life.

“Before this program was introduced, we used ordinary clothes, which would cause bruises. But now, the school gives us pads, and we also have a special bathroom where girls can go and clean up, in case she soils herself at school,” Choolwe Susu, a pupil at the school, said.

She added that the new resources have reduced the shame and teasing associated with menstruation.

Also Read- Experts Emphasize the Need to Work with Nature to Save Asia’s ‘Disappearing Deltas’

“Previously, boys used to laugh at girls who soil themselves at school, and this used to [cause] girls on menses to stay away from school. But now we can come to school, even on menses, because menstruation is normal for women, and without it there would be no humanity,” she said.

The program has also helped teach girls about pads, and schools have instituted policies to give girls space to practice proper hygiene.

“We are taught about pads. There are two types of pads. A pad is one that you wear with a pant, while a padden is one you wear without a pant. And if you spoil yourself, you have the right to tell your teacher, who will give you a pad, water and soap to clean yourself in the special bathroom,” Cnythia Choono, another pupil at Chitentabunga, said.

Zambia’s president, Edgar Lungu, told VOA the country intends to keep advocating for girls. “We want to cut down on early marriages,” he said. “We went to avoid maternal death.”

Menstrual, Health, Zambian
Two years later, menstrual hygiene management classes have been introduced in schools, and partnerships with organizations such as World Vision. Pixabay

So far, partnerships like the one with World Vision that brought interventions to Chitentabunga appear to be working. That could become a model for similar kinds of real-world impacts.

Also Read- Poor Posture can Lead to Chronic Pain

“We have a responsibility to work with members of the community,” Lungu said. (VOA)