Sixteen-year-old Uganti, a student of class 11 at Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Maner in Bihar, dreams of becoming an Indian Administrative Service officer. A few years back, she could not dream so big as girls in her village were married off before they reached high school.
Uganti would have met the same fate as her parents also decided to marry her off once she completed class 5. She, however, wanted to study. The conflict started taking a toll on her mental health. She called her teacher Kanchan Kumari, who motivated her to share her thoughts with her parents.
A few days later, Uganti broke the news to her parents, “I want to study, and I refuse to get married at such a small age.”
Kanchan is working with CorStone, an NGO aimed at building inner health and mental well-being in marginalised and vulnerable youth in Bihar. She has been conducting the 'Girls First' programme since 2019, helping adolescent girls recognise their potential and achieve their goals.
“Uganti has been part of the programme for almost five years now,” said Kanchan, who participated in a conference on Promoting Adolescent Well-being in Every School in Delhi recently.
Although the government has brought mental well-being of students into focus through its National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the NGOs are also trying to join hands with state governments to get better results.
“There is a scarcity of teachers in most of the schools in Bihar, still they are trying to focus on the mental well-being of their students while upgrading their skills,” said Kanchan.
Sajjan R., Director of the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) in Bihar, said mental health is crucial for holistic development. “The first leg of the orientation of 40,000 teachers has been completed recently,” he said.
“We hope to reach every middle school in Bihar so that students can learn about their strengths, become resilient and stay mentally healthy in difficult times”