Friday, June 9, 2023

Educating the girl child – have we done enough? 


By MR Lalu

During the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, Ajuraj, a government school teacher from one of the remotest villages in Kerala had a new plan to teach his students. Ajuraj and his team of teachers decided to take teaching-learning to the houses of the students. A group of students from the neighbouring areas were called to one house and classes and experiments were conducted there itself. The same pattern of teaching was repeated for another cluster of students in a different house. Ajuraj and his team carried teaching learning-materials including lab items for experiment with them. Walking the entire stretch of the hilly terrain on foot multiple times, he and his team continued their teaching-mission for months until normalcy returned. Students of his school, especially girls were instrumental in this new innovative initiative to successfully take place. Lack of internet connectivity prompted him to take up this rare enterprise. I quoted this initiative here to explain the possibility in which education can take place when encountered with towering challenges.  

If a girl is educated, the whole family is educated. It should make meaning beyond mere cliché.  There are multiple reasons to which female literacy still stumbles on and collapses without achieving the desired outcome in our country. We are yet to make credible and praiseworthy achievements. Interventions from social, political, regional and religious areas frequently affect the smooth schooling of girls. Typical family situations also adversely affect the girls’ learning. An honest analysis of the situation in India reveals that the potentiality of a large number of girls is still untapped. Forced to remain between the walls of the houses behind the curtains, most of them are susceptible to various exploitations. Government’s initiative to bring a law in order to raise the minimum age of marriage from 18 to 21 was repulsive to some and a welcome move for many. Compared to literate women, illiterates are vulnerable to exploitations in places such as markets, homes and workplaces. Being scary and forced to be submissive to the patriarchy, most of them are devoid of a happy life. Basic literacy skills would help them sort out anomalies to a great extent, enabling them to stand on their own feet. Unfortunately, still a large section of the society in India holds the view that to have a male child is a blissful option than to have a female. Reports revealing the statistics on the number of girls away from formal schooling do not give us happy goosebumps.

Efforts to teach our girls should take place at a faster pace, determinant to set greater goals and move in the direction of achieving them. Usually, prone to mistreatments from multiple corners, despite societies across the country making progress with greater resilience, illiteracy holds those who are devoid of the light of knowledge from the mainstream.  We know the fact that mere literacy is not education. Education holds the capability to obliterate all kinds of infirmities in societies. A progressive ambiance in every society gradually envisages this ability to correct and conceptualize better options to push its entire system to an articulative stature. Proximity to what we call an accuracy with respect to the achievement is far from reality in a multilateral entity such as India. The existing systems, with all their criticality need to be put for comprehendible exposition and reformations. Gender equality, as stressed by the constitution of the nation remains largely lopsided, unable to consolidate the aptitudes of both genders with an egalitarian outlook. Various reports suggest that India is home to millions of ‘out of school’ children, with girls constituting the maximum. When the country is making multiple leaps in the field of education, indigenising its systems to what the National Education Policy professes, the share of its women literacy is still a mere 65 percent today.  The effort to bring in the Right to Education Act (RTE) was a landmark move in the country. But ten years down the line the situation has not progressed much for the girls. The Right to Education has revolutionized the momentum, bringing glitches to the surface, ponderously attending issues and meeting the challenges, acknowledging the necessities of the schools. There is no denying the fact that India has made a noticeable leap in the direction of achieving a certain level of progress in the area of female education.

State and central governments’ push in this direction can probably overturn breaking bottlenecks to possibilities. According to a report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, about 40 percent of girls between the ages 15 to 18 years are out of school and among them 65 percent were engaged in household work. 30 percent of the girls away from schools are from extremely poor family backgrounds, who probably could never reach a classroom. Disconcertingly, it is evident from the facts that a large number of families in rural India still prefers to have a boy instead of a girl. This tilting of mind taking a boy as a blessing and a girl, if not a curse, but not considered a welcome gesture, needs to change. A lop-sided sex ratio of 940 females to 1000 males should be taken as an indication of an insistent nonacceptance for the female child. A study conducted by the Central Statistical Organisation reveals the fact that between 2001 and 2011, there was a sharp decline in the share of children to the total population and the larger decline was noticed in the number of female children. Startling findings by some agencies say that India lost about 3 million girls in one decade in infanticide during this period. Unfortunately, we are yet to make a steep recovery from this situation.   

Incentivizing the girl child education, making it genuinely affordable, the government’s efforts have been consistent. If parents are illiterate, they will be unable to figure out the pace with which the world is progressing with opportunities equally available for girls and boys. Opportunities mushrooming on a day-to-day basis, the girls need to get more access to education to prove their efficiencies and to disprove societies’ misconceived notions. As per studies, in 2013 about 22 per cent of Government schools in India did not have appropriate toilets for girls and 58 per cent preschools did not have toilets at all. Under the Swachh Bharat – Swachh Vidyalaya initiative, we have made much progress in filling the lacuna. From the very beginning of his tenure as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has consistently been giving attention to the fallacies and drawbacks in educating the girl child. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao was a phenomenal step in this direction. But much has to be done to bring our girls to schools and help them experience a world of wonderful tremendous possibilities.

(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected].)


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