A year ago, Sikkim launched the adolescents’ sexual program, TBBT. It was the first state to do so in the north-east region. G.P. Upadhyaya, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Education, Sikkim, says that the experience is encouraging. Excerpts from the interview:
Why did you decide to start TBBT?
Sikkim is a progressive state. We were the first to ban plastic carry bags in 1997. Besides, we took proactive steps and the state is known to be a clean well-governed one. If you look at social values and environmental consciousness, these are prevalent in school children. Our children use waste plastic materials to create decorative things. They have a natural talent. Female participation in the workforce is high. More than half of the government workforce is female. They are active on all fronts. We were among the first to instal sanitary napkin vending machines in schools. Hence, it was appropriate to start the adolescents’ sexual reproductive health program. Children need productive knowledge and constructive ideas so that they spend their free time productively. If they are not guided, their minds venture into drugs, etc, which is not desirable. TBBT is a step in this direction to ensure that they understand the issue of teenage sexuality which they are going to face sooner or later. Our schools are co-ed and registration of girls is more than 60% in some schools and colleges. It is a well-timed and well-thought-out strategy.
How has the journey been so far?
The experience is encouraging. The children have participated enthusiastically. They are forthcoming. We have a large number of female teachers. The ecosystem is healthy. Personally, I feel that it is a good intervention and a step in the right direction. Sikkim is relatively more prosperous amongst north-east states. Besides the low population, people have good jobs. Government jobs are easily available. We feel that efforts and resources can be channelized to provide sexual awareness among children. Now, we are so satisfied that we will tell other states to inculcate this program.
What are the challenges that you came across?
I don’t think we faced challenges. Participation of children is encouraging and parents support our initiatives despite the fact that many of the latter did not have the opportunity to get school education. Teachers interact with parents and help them understand the importance of TBBT.
Do you think TBBT has lived up to your expectations?
We are extremely satisfied and happy. We will continue to have the program in future. We will deploy the learning so that we will get better participation. It is a satisfying journey.
What is the state doing to complement this initiative?
We have willingly and happily partnered with PLAN India. We are supporting them in terms of manpower and infrastructure. Along with supporting and encouraging the program. The principals and school heads are involved with this project. Our teachers have been another big support as they go and meet parents and convince them to encourage the children to be a part of the program.