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Why India's girl child deserves a chance at education
Many of you may already be acquainted with Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP), Government of India's campaign to counter declining sex ratio, gender discrimination and low female literacy rate in the country. The need for schemes such as the BBBP becomes imperative when one looks at the dangerously skewed child sex ratio in India and the prevalent norms that discriminate against the girl child. The adverse socio-economic conditions for a girl child not only impede her growth as a healthy and literate individual but threaten her very survival.
A whopping 85 lakh girls under 14 years of age are still outside the education system in India*. They are born into a cycle of poverty and are largely unaware of their rights. They are also discouraged from claiming their right to free and compulsory education ensured under the Right To Education Act 2009. For many girls, access to schools and education remains a distant dream. They are missing the chance to get empowered through education and break the cycle of poverty. Oxfam India is campaigning to bring back girls missing from the classrooms of India.
Reasons for girls missing from classrooms
According to National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-2016) data, the top ten reasons for girls to drop out of school are:
- 1) Not interested in studies- 24.8% cases at national level
- 2) Education costs too much- 19.3%
- 3) Required for household work- 14.5%
- 4) School too far away- 8.3%
- 5) Got married- 7.9%
- 6) Further education not considered necessary for girls- 3.6 %
- 8) Did not get admission- 3.2 %
- 9) Required for work on farm/family business- 2%
- 10) Required for outside work for payment in cash or kind- 1.8%
What is the solution?
Currently, only 12% of the schools in India are RTE compliant. This means, out of 14 lakh schools in India, a little over 1 lakh schools only make sure that children from 6-14 years of age are getting access to education- their fundamental right. Implementing the provisions prescribed by the law (like separate functional toilets for girls, construction of boundary wall for safety, shorter distance from home to school, provision of transport facility, non-discrimination and inclusive, safe and secure environment) can help facilitate more girl child enrolments. Comprehensive good quality school education must also have an in-built school health programme as well as counselling facilities for older girl children.
However, the fight is only half won until gender stereotypes and regressive social norms are changed to empower girls. This can change with your help.
- Ensuring schools are RTE compliant by following the basic norms prescribed under RTE act like
a) At least one classroom for every teacher
b) Separate toilets for boys and girls
c) All weather building with boundary wall
d) Drinking water facility
e) Teacher learning equipment etc.
- Breaking gender stereotypes by working with communities and youth to encourage people to send girls to schools.
- Urge government to increase spending on elementary education.
Read THE STORY OF THESE THREE INSPIRING CHILDREN fighting inequality in India through education here.
1. The enrollment gap between males and females in the formal education system increases with age. There is hardly any difference between boys' and girls' enrollment at age 14; but at age 18, 32% females are not enrolled as compared to 28% males
3. There is a link between education and adolescent pregnancies. A woman with 12 years or more of education has her first child at the median age of 24.7, which is 3.7 years more than the median age of first pregnancy (21) for women between 25-49 years, according to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16 (NFHS-4) report. A woman with no schooling has her first child at 20.
Aarti is a part of Bal Manch (Student Parliament) at her school. With Oxfam India's help, she has been re-enrolled in grade 3 as her family did not prioritise her education over house work. After re-enrolling, she is determined to catch up with the rest of her peers. She has a friendly demeanor and has represented her school in state level plays where she has performed in front of a 400 strong audience. She is well versed with child rights and goes door to door as a Right To Education ambassador. She can tell you about the changes brought about by the Bal Manch in her village quite elaborately. She also tutors a grade 1 child after school and wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She feels education is necessary for awareness and to be better equipped in case of any emergency. She knows how her mother struggles even to get basic groceries from the market without understanding numbers and has to accompany her mother and help with finances at home. Aarti's confidence sets her apart from her peers. She dares to dream and understands how education is the medium to reach all her goals.
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