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Saving Ananya

Six months after losing my 16-year-old daughter Ananya to suicide, questions about stress, mental health, sadness, resilience, and depression, haunt me to no end.

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The most beautiful phase of one’s life is teenage life. We all have fond memories of our adolescent times. This phase is a busy and exciting time in the journey of life. But then all that glitters is not gold. Many young, seemingly happy hearts are stressing beyond the point they can handle. Six months after losing my 16-year-old daughter Ananya to suicide, questions about stress, mental health, sadness, resilience, and depression, haunt me to no end.

What could I have done to save Ananya?

Like any other teenage kid, Ananya was a bubbly young girl, beautiful, intelligent, ambitious, talented, an achiever, and most importantly, a child with a defined life purpose. She was a trained singer and performed at many events. She infused laughter and chatter into every conversation. She had many stories to share about her school day, her friends, and general thoughts about the world. Suddenly, it all ended; there was a silence that created an irreplaceable and irreversible void.

Talking with Ananya was easy. We connected on various topics, academics, career choices, friends, human behaviour, music, nature, and many more. We both shared our perspectives on these topics, and needless to say, we enjoyed these conversations. For a child who was comfortable sharing everything with me, I am at a loss today, wondering why she could not share her darkest emotions with me. How did I fail to recognise that my child needed help? Why couldn’t I, a mother, hear my child’s silent cry?

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I find myself constantly revisiting the days surrounding the moment when I lost my very soul. Ananya had just finished her physics exam and was unhappy that she did not perform as expected. We spoke about what went wrong, and apparently, Ananya blacked out during her exam due to lack of sleep. She felt drowsy and slept for about half an hour in the examination hall. It was a blow she couldn’t handle. The fear of the devastating effect, the loss of time would have on her results was debilitating for an achiever like Ananya. She feared the worst.

Why was my child not ready to accept this perceived failure?

The Silent Killer

Why does suicide become the only choice for some people? Why don’t they look for support? Could society be too busy to catch signs of what the person next to us is going through? How can we unite to support the people around us fighting a battle? It’s time we stop, think, and support every individual around us. Mental illness is a silent killer, and we need to be empathetic.

The Stressors

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Expectations from life come in the form of jobs, family, academics, society, finances, and so on. While an individual makes every effort to give his best, somewhere along the way, they lose themselves to the pressures of life. The lack of satisfaction leads to a feeling of hollowness or deprivation of the absolute joy of life. People of all age groups go through these pressures at some point. Many factors contribute to adding stress, and if we are not emotionally strong enough to deal with it, it can silently push us to depression. How do we overcome these stressors?

The Fight

We all go through emotional ups and downs, and the sad part is that not everyone is emotionally and psychologically well-equipped to fight a depressive episode. What’s easy for some may be devastating for somebody else. Somebody might sleep and get over a challenging situation, yet others might take days or months to deal with a similar situation. It is imperative to understand that we are all built differently. Our Emotional Quotients are different!

The Support

The onus of supporting a depressed person does not always lie with the immediate family. Whenever I think of how we can help a depressed person, I visualize the entire society standing around to help.

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It takes a village to raise a child! -African Proverb

It’s time we bring this into practice. Parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers, friends, relatives, cousins, and colleagues should all come together to help. Mental health has to be treated with empathy alone.

Many a time, all it takes to comfort a depressed person is one word of inspiration or a silent hug.

In my endeavor to save other Ananya’s, I have taken a step forward to share my experiences and start a foundation, ‘Ananya – A Foundation for Happiness’ that attempts to promote happiness and resilience in the lives of every individual. I want to ensure that no other parent loses their child to mental health illnesses. The foundation aims to create strong, factual awareness about mental health and help fight its stigmas through specially crafted programs for students and families. AFH also aims to normalize discussing and talking about mental health. The foundation’s mission is to reach out to the population from all age groups and introduce mental health as an essential factor contributing to an individual’s well-being.

The main objectives of the foundation are:

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  • Promote mental health as an essential factor at every stage and age of one’s life
  • Educate people about different kinds of mental illnesses and ways to identify the signs and symptoms in themselves or their loved ones
  • Spread awareness about suicide, especially among children, and prevent loss of life due to stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Create a helpline channel to assist those whose emotional state is on the verge of getting worse
  • Building custom programs and campaigns to promote the importance of self-happiness, resilience, and self-care
  • To create a solid social media campaign to promote self-care, happiness, and awareness about mental well-being.

We achieve this by collaborating with educational institutions and addressing students, parents, and teachers under separate initiatives. We join hands with NGOs and other foundations to gain a wider reach. We also offer counseling sessions by experts for students or adults in need of support. We also introduce different art forms like music, dance, and painting as therapies.

Let us come out and share our stories and thoughts with others. Your story might be someone else’s inspiration to reach out and seek help.

Let us pledge to support each other and make sure we normalize mental health.

Together, we can all do better to create a brighter, healthier future for a generation of young people facing more challenges than ever before. Let’s come together as a village to support the Ananyas around us.

Author – Sneha Rao, Founder Director, Ananya – A Foundation for Happiness 

 

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Education

10 Summer Safety Tips for Kids During Summer Breaks

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Summer breaks are a much-anticipated time for children, filled with opportunities for fun, adventure, and relaxation. However, amidst the excitement, it’s crucial to prioritise safety to ensure that these experiences remain enjoyable and hazard-free. Here are some essential safety tips for kids during the summer holidays.

1. Stay Hydrated

One of the biggest risks during the summer is dehydration. Children often get so engrossed in play that they forget to drink water. Encourage your kids to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, even if they don’t feel thirsty. Water is the best option, but natural fruit juices and milk are also good choices. Avoid sugary drinks and sodas, as they can lead to more dehydration. Teach children to recognise the signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue.

2. Sun Protection

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The summer sun can be harsh, and overexposure can lead to sunburn, heat exhaustion, or even heatstroke. Ensure your children wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and reapply it every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating. Hats, sunglasses, and light, breathable clothing can also provide additional protection. Encourage kids to play in the shade during peak sun hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

3. Water Safety

Whether it’s the beach, a pool, or a lake, water activities are a summer favourite. However, they come with inherent risks. Always supervise children when they are near water. Teach them basic swimming skills and ensure they know never to swim alone. If you have a pool at home, make sure it’s fenced and that the gate is locked when not in use. Familiarise your children with water safety rules, such as not running around the pool area and recognising the significance of lifeguard instructions.

4. Bike and Scooter Safety

Cycling and scootering are popular summer activities, but they require safety precautions. Ensure your child wears a properly fitted helmet every time they ride. Elbow and knee pads can also prevent injuries in case of falls. Teach them to follow traffic rules, use bike lanes where available, and to be aware of their surroundings. Reflective clothing or accessories can make them more visible to motorists, especially during early morning or evening rides.

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5. Stranger Danger Awareness

With more time spent outdoors, it’s vital to remind children about stranger danger. Teach them not to talk to strangers or accept gifts or rides from people they don’t know. Establish a family code word that only trusted individuals know, which can be used in emergency situations. Equip your child with a mobile phone if they are old enough, and ensure they know how to use it to contact you or emergency services.

6. Safe Playgrounds

Playgrounds are fantastic places for children to burn off energy and socialise, but they must be safe environments. Check that the playground equipment is in good condition and that the surfaces are made of impact-absorbing materials like wood chips, sand, or rubber. Teach your children to play safely, avoiding pushing or shoving, and to be mindful of younger kids who may be playing nearby.

7. Insect Protection

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Summer also brings out insects like mosquitoes and ticks. These can be more than just a nuisance; they can carry diseases. Use insect repellent containing child safety approved ingridients. Dress them in long sleeves and trousers during early morning and evening when mosquitoes are most active. After outdoor activities, especially in wooded or grassy areas, check your child’s body for ticks.

8. Food Safety

With picnics and barbecues being a staple of summer, food safety is paramount. Ensure that all perishable food is kept cold until it’s time to eat. Teach your children the importance of washing their hands before handling food. Be cautious with foods that spoil easily in the heat, such as dairy products, meats, and mayonnaise-based dishes. When in doubt, throw it out – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

9. First Aid Knowledge

Accidents can happen, no matter how careful you are. Equip your children with basic first aid knowledge. Teach them how to clean and bandage a minor cut or scrape, and how to identify when they need to seek help from an adult. Make sure they know the emergency contact numbers and how to explain their location in case they need to call for help.

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10. Safe Travel

If your summer plans include travel, ensure that your child’s car seat is properly installed and that they always wear a seatbelt. During flights, remind them to stay seated and follow the crew’s instructions. Carry a small travel first aid kit and any necessary medications.

By incorporating these safety tips into your summer routine, you can help ensure that your children have a fun, healthy, and safe holiday. Summer should be a time of joy and adventure, and with a little preparation and vigilance, it can be free from mishaps and worries.

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Education

Climate Change Erodes Education Outcomes: World Bank Report

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A new World Bank policy note reveals alarming evidence on how climate change is severely impacting education outcomes worldwide. The report highlights the increasing frequency of school closures due to extreme weather events and other climate-related factors, outlining the urgent need for adaptation measures within the education sector.

Over the past two decades, schools were closed during approximately 75 percent of extreme weather events affecting over 5 million people. It has become common for countries to close their schools multiple times a year due to heatwaves, flooding, and high pollution levels. The duration of these closures is often prolonged when school infrastructure is vulnerable or used as evacuation centres.

Climate change is also indirectly affecting students through increased diseases, stress, and conflict. The report notes that a one standard deviation change in temperature and rainfall has been linked to a 14 percent increase in the risk of intergroup conflict and interpersonal violence. These factors have severe consequences on children’s educational attainment and achievement.

The erosion of learning due to climate change translates into lower future earnings and productivity, especially for the poor. Research indicates that each additional year of schooling is associated with a 10 percent increase in earnings. As climate shocks reduce educational attainment, future earnings are likely to suffer, perpetuating cycles of poverty and limiting social mobility across generations.

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Despite these growing negative impacts, the report indicates that policymakers do not fully appreciate the urgency of climate adaptation within the education sector. A novel survey covering 94 education policymakers across 28 low- and middle-income countries reveals that nearly 61 percent ranked the protection of learning from climate change among the bottom three priorities in their country. This low prioritisation is troubling because the benefits of education are under threat.

To build resilience in education systems, policymakers must act on four fronts: education management, school infrastructure, students and teachers as change agents, and ensuring learning continuity. The report underscores the need for immediate action to adapt education systems to cope with extreme weather events.

For instance, global estimates indicate that the education sector experiences financial losses of $4 billion annually due to tropical cyclones alone. In the Philippines, over 10,000 classrooms are damaged per year due to typhoons and floods.

The World Bank’s findings stress that for millions of children who will need to attend school over the next 50 years, the results of climate mitigation will come too late. Governments must act now to increase the capacity of education systems to adapt and cope with these increasingly prevalent extreme weather events.

As climate change continues to pose severe risks to educational outcomes, it is imperative that policymakers recognise and address these challenges urgently. The future of education depends on our ability to adapt and build resilience against the adverse effects of climate change.

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Source- ANI

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Teaching Sensitivity to Kids in School: A Necessity for Today’s World

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In recent years, instances of bullying, violence, and other harmful behaviours have alarmingly increased among young children. Various factors contribute to this troubling trend. The omnipresence of social media, exposure to violent content, familial discord, and the high-pressure environment of academic and extracurricular achievements are significant reasons. These influences create an environment where children may not develop the necessary empathy and understanding to coexist harmoniously with their peers.

Given this backdrop, it is crucial to emphasise the teaching of sensitivity to children in schools. Sensitising kids towards each other, society, animals, nature, and humans in general is not just beneficial—it is imperative for fostering a more compassionate and cohesive community.

The Importance of Sensitivity

Firstly, teaching sensitivity is essential to combat bullying and violence. When children are taught to understand and appreciate the feelings and perspectives of others, they are less likely to engage in harmful behaviours. Empathy and kindness can act as powerful deterrents against bullying. Moreover, children who are sensitive to the emotions of their peers can contribute to a supportive and inclusive school environment, where everyone feels valued and respected.

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Furthermore, sensitivity towards society and the environment is crucial for nurturing responsible future citizens. Teaching children to care for animals, respect nature, and understand social issues instils a sense of responsibility and stewardship. This not only benefits the immediate community but also contributes to the broader goal of sustainable living and environmental conservation.

Implementing Sensitivity Education at the Grassroots Level in India

To effectively implement sensitivity education, a multifaceted approach is necessary, starting at the grassroots level. Here are several strategies that can be employed:

  1. Incorporate Sensitivity into the Curriculum: Schools should integrate lessons on empathy, kindness, and respect into the existing curriculum. Subjects like Social Studies and Environmental Science can include modules that teach children about the importance of sensitivity towards others and the environment. Stories, role-playing activities, and discussions can be powerful tools in this regard.
  2. Teacher Training and Development: Educators play a pivotal role in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of students. Providing teachers with training on how to foster empathy and sensitivity in the classroom is essential. Workshops and seminars can equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.
  3. Extracurricular Activities and Clubs: Schools can organise clubs and activities that promote sensitivity. For instance, eco-clubs can engage students in activities like tree planting, waste management, and animal care, fostering a sense of responsibility towards nature. Similarly, social service clubs can involve students in community service projects, teaching them the importance of giving back to society.
  4. Parental Involvement: Sensitivity education should not be confined to the school environment. Encouraging parents to reinforce these values at home is crucial. Schools can organise workshops and provide resources to help parents understand their role in teaching empathy and kindness to their children.
  5. Creating a Safe and Inclusive School Environment: Schools should strive to create an environment where every student feels safe and valued. Anti-bullying policies, counselling services, and peer support programs can help achieve this. Additionally, celebrating diversity and promoting inclusivity through cultural events and awareness campaigns can enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of different perspectives.

Teaching sensitivity to children in school is not merely an optional add-on to education; it is a fundamental aspect of nurturing well-rounded individuals who can contribute positively to society. By addressing the rise in bullying and violence through empathy and understanding, we can create a more compassionate and harmonious community. Implementing sensitivity education at the grassroots level in India requires a collaborative effort from educators, parents, and the community. Together, we can ensure that our children grow up to be empathetic, responsible, and sensitive citizens, ready to make a positive impact on the world.

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UNESCO’s Happy Schools Initiative: Placing Happiness at the Heart of Education

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In a progressive move to reshape global education, UNESCO has developed the ‘Happy Schools’ initiative to place happiness at the forefront of educational transformation. By positioning happiness as both a means and an end to quality learning, this initiative encourages education systems worldwide to recognise happiness as a critical driver of learning and well-being.

Why Happiness Matters in Education

The Happy Schools initiative stems from an ever-growing body of evidence linking happiness with improved learning, teaching, and overall well-being. Academic excellence and happiness are not competing priorities; instead, they work hand in hand. Joyful learning environments enhance creativity, motivation, and the overall learning experience, thus improving educational outcomes.

Education systems face mounting pressure to provide quality learning in the face of widespread global challenges. Currently, 250 million children and youth are out of school worldwide, and over 44 million teachers are required to meet the global teacher shortage. Alarmingly, more than half of the world’s children and adolescents aren’t learning effectively, and one in three students experiences bullying at school every month. Given this backdrop, prioritising happiness is no longer a luxury but a necessity for fostering resilient and collaborative societies.

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The Framework of the Happy Schools Initiative

UNESCO has developed a comprehensive Happy Schools framework that consists of four pillars: people, process, place, and principles. These pillars, combined with 12 high-level criteria, aim to provide a flexible and adaptable guide for transforming education systems.

1. People: Promoting relationships, inclusion, and respect among students and staff to foster social cohesion and well-being.

2. Process: Encouraging dynamic and participatory learning processes that inspire engagement, creativity, and motivation.

3. Place: Creating safe, welcoming, and inclusive learning environments that support both physical and social-emotional well-being.

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4. Principles: Upholding values of empathy, integrity, and respect while ensuring academic excellence.

Global Impact and Implementation

Several countries have already implemented the Happy Schools initiative, including Portugal, Viet Nam, Yemen, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Thailand. These nations have utilised the framework to improve teacher training, strengthen socio-emotional learning, and foster healthier school relationships. By approaching happiness from various entry points, the initiative has proven to be versatile and adaptable to different education systems, even in crisis situations.

Joining the Happy Schools Movement

UNESCO invites educators, policymakers, and individuals to become Happy Schools champions, advocating for happiness in education through these main approaches:

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– National Projects: UNESCO provides technical support to help Member States adapt the framework to their educational systems.

– Self-initiated Projects: Schools and organisations can access the available public resources to lead their own Happy Schools projects.

– Advocacy: Advocate for incorporating happiness into education policies to raise awareness of the importance of well-being in education.

– Evidence-Based Studies: Contribute to the growing body of research on happiness and learning.

For those interested in joining the Happy Schools mission, contact UNESCO at [email protected] or join the LinkedIn community for regular updates and connections. By embracing this holistic approach, we can empower children to flourish, thrive, and build resilient, happy societies.

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Ideology Over Individuality: Encouraging Open Dialogues

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In the corridors of Heights of Prestige School, nestled within the heart of a bustling metropolis, two stories unfolded, separated by time but linked by the indelible marks left by words unkind and ideologies unchallenged. 

First was the tale of Siya, a bright-eyed girl with dreams as vast as the sky. Her world, however, shrunk within the confines of a classroom where her attire became the subject of scrutiny, her skirt a centimetre too short, her friendship with boys a topic of disdain. “Ladies must maintain decorum,” they said, echoing through the halls like a decree. These words, though seemingly innocuous, were chains that bound her, moulding her into a silhouette of propriety, erasing the lines of her individuality. As Siya grew, the shadow of those admonishments lingered, shaping her into an adult whose confidence was tempered by the fear of stepping out of line, her personality a mosaic of others’ expectations.

Parallel to Siya’s narrative was Aarav’s journey, a boy whose heart held questions about his identity, about feelings that didn’t fit the moulds prescribed by society. In a world where he sought answers and acceptance, what he found were walls built of rigid beliefs. “There are only two genders,” they proclaimed, their ideologies as impenetrable as steel, casting a shadow over his quest for self. Aarav’s plea for a space that acknowledged his existence was met with laughter and derision, his identity reduced to a subject of mockery. These encounters, seeds sown in the fertile ground of youth, grew into vines of doubt that entwined his being, stifling the bloom of his true self.

Years passed, and the halls of Heights of Prestige School echoed with new voices, but the tales of Siya and Aarav were etched in its legacy, a sombre reminder of the power wielded by those who guide the young. As adults, both Siya and Aarav navigated a world where their selves were not entirely their own, their reflections marred by the imprints of past admonitions. Siya, in boardrooms where her voice hesitated, and Aarav, in the mirror where he searched for recognition, both found themselves longing for the acceptance they were denied in their formative years.

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These stories, though fictional, mirror the reality of countless young souls navigating the delicate dance of identity and acceptance in environments that should foster growth but often constrict it. They compel us to question the role of educators, not just as purveyors of knowledge but as custodians of the young minds entrusted to their care.

In a world where the tapestry of human experience is rich with diversity, how can we, as educators and leaders, remain anchored in doctrines that do not serve the well-being of all students? When will the dialogues within our classrooms evolve to embrace the complexities of identity, sexuality, and individuality, fostering an environment where every child is seen, heard, and validated?

The need for sensitivity and openness in addressing the myriad hues of human experience cannot be overstated. It is a clarion call for a shift from ideology to individuality, from dogma to dialogue. For if the legacy of our educational institutions is to be one of enlightenment and empowerment, we must begin by asking ourselves: Are we preparing our students for a world that exists in shades of grey, or are we colouring their perceptions with our own black and white beliefs?

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Education

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The Need for Personalised Learning

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The need for personalised learning
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Once upon a time, in the heart of a bustling town adorned with the charm of old and new, there lay a school that seemed plucked from the pages of a storybook. The Enchanted Academy, with its sprawling lawns and majestic halls, was a place where every child was believed to be a star, destined to shine. Among these stars was a quiet moon, Rohan, whose light seemed to flicker in the overwhelming brightness of others.

Rohan, with his gentle eyes and silent ways, moved like a shadow through the corridors of opulence. The teachers, with their well-meant methods and hearts full of old tales of success, saw him but didn’t truly see him. They believed in a spell – the “one-size-fits-all” charm, which they thought could unlock the potential in every child. But magic, as the wisest of us know, cannot be forced into uniformity.

One day, under the vast canopy of the ancient banyan tree that stood watch over Enchanted Academy, Rohan’s teacher, Mrs. Verma, decided it was time to unravel the mystery of his silence. Armed with the same enchantments she had used time and again, she led him to an empty chamber, a place where many tales had been told and many woes had been comforted.

“Close your eyes and imagine a world of peace,” she coaxed, her voice a gentle breeze. But what she didn’t know, what she couldn’t have known, was that Rohan’s silence was a fortress guarding him from memories too painful, from a reality where he was the moon amidst stars too harsh. The tranquillity she offered turned into a storm, for closing his eyes only brought him closer to the darkness he faced each day – not from monsters of fairy tales, but from fellow students, his supposed comrades in this magical journey.

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The revelation came not with a whisper but a tempest, as Rohan found himself lost in a maelstrom of fear, his quietude breaking into a cry for help. It was a moment of awakening, not just for Rohan, but for Mrs. Verma too, as the veil lifted, revealing the truth that lay hidden in plain sight.

Later, in the quiet sanctity of his home, Rohan shared his tale of torment with his mother, his voice a mere echo of his former self. The harassment and abuse he had endured from his peers, the knights and princesses of this enchanted world, came to light, painting a stark contrast to the storybook façade of Enchanted Academy.

The tale of Rohan is not just his but a reflection of many moons dimmed by the glare of standardised spells, a reminder that in a world filled with diverse souls, the magic of education lies not in uniformity but in understanding the unique melodies each child carries within.

As the Enchanted Academy learned to navigate this new chapter, a question lingered like the last note of a song, resonating through the halls of learning everywhere: How long will we continue to cast the same spell, expecting to unlock every door, when the keys we hold are as varied as the hearts they are meant to open?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Empowering Education: LASSI 2024 Concludes with Success and Inspiration

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The curtains have closed on a successful edition of Liberal Arts and Science Symposium India (LASSI 2024), hosted by ScooNews in collaboration with Good Shepherd International School, Ooty. The symposium, held at the picturesque campus nestled in the Nilgiri Hills, saw an unprecedented gathering of educators, students, and industry experts from around the world.

Themed ‘Shaping Tomorrow,’ LASSI 2024 surpassed expectations in providing a platform for insightful discussions, innovative ideas, and collaborative initiatives in the realm of Liberal Arts and Sciences education. Over the course of the event, attendees had the opportunity to engage in a diverse array of masterclasses, keynotes, and case studies, each offering valuable insights into the transformative power of Liberal Arts education.

Reflecting on the success of the symposium, Jacob Thomas, President of Good Shepherd International School, Ooty, remarked, “LASSI 2024 has been a testament to the spirit of collaboration and inquiry that defines our institution. We are proud to have facilitated meaningful discussions and exchanges that will shape the future of education in India and beyond.”

The event was helmed by Prof Anil Srinivasan & Chetnaa Mehrotra who set the context for the 2-day event as the Summit Curators. Reflecting on the dynamic sessions that unfolded at LASSI 2024, attendees were treated to a diverse range of insights and discussions that shaped the future of education. From Jacob Thomas‘ exploration of emerging technologies to Maheshwar Peri‘s elucidation on Liberal Arts programs in India, each session offered a unique perspective on educational advancement. Vivek Atray‘s interactive Ask Me Anything session, alongside Naman Kandoi and Vardan Kabra‘s discourse on building artistic learners, sparked lively conversations on leadership and innovation. Reena Gupta and Rahul Batra‘s exploration of liberal education further underscored the importance of inclusion and empowerment in academic settings. Outdoor activities and workshops added a touch of experiential learning, while Radhika Lobo and Nisha Bhakar delved into pedagogy and curriculum development. The symposium culminated in a captivating musical performance by Prof Anil Srinivasan, leaving attendees inspired and enlightened. With engaging discussions and impactful presentations, Day  1 at LASSI 2024 proved to be a transformative event for educators, students, and industry experts alike. 

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Day 2 began with Professor Sugata Mitra‘s inspiring session on redefining educational norms that left a lasting impact on attendees. Sandeep Sethi‘s spotlight session explored innovative approaches to education through monuments, theatre, and folk art, shedding light on alternative learning methods. Attendees engaged in an interactive “Ask Us Anything” session with all speakers, fostering open dialogue and exchange of ideas. The Fishbowl Session on the 21st-century school, led by Dr. Venka Purushothaman and Chetnaa Mehrotra, provided valuable insights into the future of education. Meanwhile, students had the opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Prof. Anil Srinivasan, where they explored the concept of creating a startup in the classroom. After a lunch break, the afternoon session kicked off with an open mic segment, allowing attendees to share their perspectives and experiences. Akhila Ramnarayan and Dr. Vijila Edwin-Kennedy led a session on the significance of liberal arts education, prompting reflection on its relevance in today’s society. The day concluded with a student panel discussion on the decision to take a gap year, offering valuable insights into the benefits and considerations of such a choice. 

In addition to thought-provoking discussions, LASSI 2024 showcased leading Liberal Arts colleges from India and abroad, providing attendees with valuable insights into their educational options. Success stories and groundbreaking research findings presented at the symposium underscored the transformative impact of Liberal Arts education on both careers and personal growth.

As the symposium concluded, ScooNews and Good Shepherd International School expressed their gratitude to all participants, sponsors, and partners for their invaluable contributions to the success of LASSI 2024. Looking ahead, both organisations remain committed to fostering collaboration and innovation in education, continuing the momentum generated by this landmark event.

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Vape Awareness: Mist of Misconception

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Image Source- Envato Elements

In the glitzy lanes of South Delhi, where luxury and legacy intertwine, the tale of Vihaan and Tunnisa begins to unravel. These two, born into privilege and the whispers of high society, sought the thrill of independence one night, convincing their parents of a harmless night out and escaping to the city’s most exclusive club.

“Trust us, it’s just a bit of fun,” Vihaan assured his parents with a grin, his words dipped in the confident, laid-back drawl characteristic of South Delhi’s elite. Tunnisa, flicking her hair with a laugh that chimed like crystal, added, “Yeah, we’ll be super safe, you know. It’s all chill vibes only.”

The club was an electric universe unto itself, pulsating with beats that echoed the heartbeats of Delhi’s young and restless. It was here, amidst the sea of moving bodies and throbbing music, that Vihaan and Tunnisa encountered the ubiquitous presence of vapes, each puff a symbol of the carefree rebellion they yearned for.

“Honestly, it’s like, not even bad for you,” Vihaan mused aloud, a sleek vape pen dangling between his fingers, reflecting the strobe lights. “It’s all water vapour, right? Way classier than smoking.” Tunnisa, taking a delicate drag, nodded in agreement. “Totally. It’s just flavour. Plus, it looks so cool,” she said, her voice a melody of nonchalance and privilege, unaware of the shadows that lurked behind the veil of vapour.

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The backdrop to their night of whispered defiance and veiled clouds is starkly illuminated by a survey conducted by the Think Change Forum (TCF), titled “Ideas for an Addiction-Free India.” Among 1,007 students aged 14 to 17, an astonishing 96% were clueless about the ban on vapes in India, with 89% blissfully unaware of the health risks shadowing their fashionable accessory. The revelation that 52% perceived vaping as “completely harmless,” and another 37% saw it as “moderately harmful,” underscores the bubble of misconception that Vihaan, Tunnisa, and their peers inhabit—a bubble punctured only by the piercing truth of ignorance.

As the night faded and reality dawned with the sobering light of day, Vihaan and Tunnisa’s fleeting rebellion against the norms left them standing on the precipice of a larger conversation, one that transcends the boundaries of nightclubs and enters the realm of health and awareness.

Their story, echoed in the laughter and whispers of countless others, beckons us to ponder a critical question that resonates with urgency and concern:

In a society that dresses danger in the guise of trend and tradition, how do we pierce the mist of misconception to reveal the truth about vaping to our youth? How do we ensure that the quest for social stature and the allure of belonging do not cloud the judgement of our future generations?

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Education

Beyond Appearances: Prachi Nigam’s Triumph and The Pressures of Appearance-Based Bullying in Schools

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Image Source- BBC Hindi

The news of Prachi Nigam, a diligent 10th UP Board Topper, unleashed a disturbing chapter in the history of our society. Despite her unquestionable academic talent being the main topic of a discussion it was superseded by the inappropriate emphasis on her appearance. These events clearly underline the intricate and destructive beauty standard that plague the learning institutions.

It perhaps resonates with the fact that, in the process, we form these gigantic LED screens of illusory beauty standards, which subsequently hover over our young, leaving long shadows behind their achievements. Even if they keep advancing up the ladder of academic strength, their way at the top is checked through the view of how attractive they are. The risk of humiliation due to poor marks and failing an exam is unavoidable. The true woe Prachi has is the desire for anonymity despite her impressive winning activities, which emphasises how emotional hearts of young people can be dysfunctional from such pressures.

Time has come for all of us, as a society, to shape direction which mostly depends on whether empathy has the right place in our classrooms or not. Let this be a lighthouse to the teachers to build suitable defences of comfort around the children thus, no kid should be caught hiding from scrutiny in the shadows. Teachers are doing not only a transmission of knowledge but also establishing an arena where jokes and laughter is shared with no one’s dignity being mocked. When a person makes fun of someone for his/her looks, it should not have a tolerance or a laughter of agreement but condemnation with the sober reminder of respect and tolerance.

The heart of our education philosophy must be the acceptance that the human body is the norm, in its different shapes, and be explained that those changes in adolescence, which are taken as anomalies, are just threads in the rich diversity of our human experience. The burden exists equally in both teaching our young boys that hair is a natural part of a woman’s presence and passing judgement or hearsay based on the absence of hair is unjustifiable, besides disrespectful.

Creating a monument for our schools is to convert them into sensitive meeting places where each child can grow up in freedom without the worry of being dug out for their uniqueness. These classrooms nurture compassion from which the saplings of mature citizens emerge; their spiritual vision awakening the logical perception which glimpses beyond obvious matters. However, beauty is a kaleidoscope, and for our brains, the time to adjust to its actual spectrum is right at hand. 

When building up such an environment, we do not just educate students, we plant the seeds of change in a world where people are cherished not by the size and shape of their bodies but by their uniqueness and achievements. The story of Prachi standing fearlessly up to the rushing flood of hate, should sound in the corridors of every school, it would be among the strongest lessons in fortitude and the ability to endure as an example.

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We are not merely shaping the students of today but creating a world where every young Prachi will find a space to fly free from unwarranted prejudices. As educators, students, and members of this complex society, we need to topple the divergent walls of superficial standards and in their place to grow a garden which allows every flower, despite how it differs from others in terms of size, colour or shape, to be valued for the gift that it brings to the world. It won’t be until after when we can say we have not failed our children, only when we can tell that we are proud of having brought up not just scholars, but decent human beings.

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Education

Beyond The Screen: Virtual Battles, Real Consequences

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gaming addiction in students
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In the vibrant corridors of Eduson College, amidst the chatter of aspirations and the rustle of textbooks, lived the story of Rishi, a student whose world oscillated between the realms of academia and virtual battlegrounds. With the close of each school day, Rishi, like many of his peers, descended into the digital trenches of PUBG, where victories were counted in kills and survival was the sole creed.

Rishi’s descent into the gaming vortex was gradual but consuming. The initial allure of camaraderie and challenge on the virtual battlefield soon morphed into an addiction that blurred the lines between entertainment and obsession. Night after night, the glow of his screen illuminated his singular focus, as the real world, with its demands and duties, faded into the background.

The consequences of Rishi’s digital dalliance were manifold. Physically, the hours spent in gaming marathons manifested as blurred vision, a constant crick in his neck, and an unwelcome weight gain. Academically, the sharpness and concentration that once defined his scholarly pursuits dulled, replaced by a pervasive lethargy that clouded his thoughts and ambitions.

But the ramifications extended beyond the tangible. The aggression and competitiveness that were once confined to the game began to seep into Rishi’s interactions, straining relationships and isolating him from those who once comprised his support system. The virtual victories, once a source of exhilaration, now served as a stark reminder of the disconnect between his online persona and the person he aspired to be.

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As the reality of his situation dawned on him, catalysed by a reflective conversation with a concerned mentor at Eduson College, Rishi began to question the path he was on. Was the ephemeral thrill of digital dominance worth the erosion of his health, his relationships, and his future?

This narrative, while fictional, echoes the experiences of countless young adults ensnared in the web of gaming addiction, challenging us to confront the shadow it casts over their lives. 

Following Rishi’s tale, it’s imperative to ground our understanding with tangible insights. A recent survey conducted among 200 students aged 18 to 20 years, as published in the International Journal of Science, Technology and Management (IJSTM), sheds light on the gripping nature of gaming addiction. The study revealed (undertaking 122 boys and 78 girls) that students have been significantly impacted by frequent engagement with violent video games such as PUBG. Key findings underscore the learning of aggressive attitudes and behaviours, diminishing eyesight, and reduced concentration in studies as the three primary adverse effects of prolonged game play.

As we navigate the story of #BeyondTheScreen, a crucial question beckons for reflection: How can we, as a society, educators, and families, foster environments that encourage balanced engagement with technology, ensuring that the digital worlds our students explore enhance, rather than detract from, the richness of their real-world experiences and potential?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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