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A progressive madrassa in the heart of UP

Access to education, Budget Private Schools, Community Schools, Girl Child Education

Bilariyaganj: Breaking the stereotypes associated with madrassas, a 50-year-old Islamic seminary here teaches subjects like personality development and home science, runs an elaborate teacher training programme, has a higher girl enrolment ratio and has students who are no less active on social networking websites than their counterparts in the metros.

Welcome to Jamiatul Falah, a madrassa in Bilariyaganj town of Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh’s district that has kept pace with modern education. The 4,300 students who come here from across the country are taught subjects like personality development, economics, political science and home science — subjects which are rarely taught in Islamic institutions.

Jamiatul Falah, which means University of Eternal Success, also started a mini Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and a public hospital earlier this year.

The institution now wants to start paramedical courses for students.

“Now the madrassa people across the country recognize that there is a need to train teachers because they play a key role in any educational system,” Falah manager Mohammad Tahir Madani told reporters.

“The modern subjects are helpful to understand the religious commandments and create confidence among our students,” he said.

“If our students don’t know other languages, then they won’t know other cultures. Nowadays, if they don’t know English they may feel an inferiority complex,” he explained.

More than 50 percent of the students in the institution in higher classes are comfortable with the Internet and most have a Facebook account.

Shahid Habib, a student, has 425 Facebook friends. “I access the internet easily, send e-mails and get information,” he said.

Of the 4,300 students, around 2,600 are girls and most of the outstation students are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Nepal. The girls’ enrolment ratio in higher classes is even more.

“Educating the girl child is necessary to empower them. The ratio of educated girls has increased now. The poor girls can also get education here,” Falah headmistress Salma Jaleel said.

“If someone is poor, then they don’t have to pay. We will educate them as it is our responsibility,” Madani said.

Falah, which has a monthly fee of less than Rs.100, provides free education, accommodation and meals to at least 30 percent of its students.

The institution’s alumni are pursuing research in various universities in India and abroad.

Its hospital, Al-Falah Hospital, offers allopathy, Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani treatment.

It serves at least 100 patients daily and provides free service to poor irrespective of race, cast and religion.

Azam Beg, an alumni of Falah hailing from Rajasthan, went on to study Unani medicine from the Aligarh Muslim University and was twice elected students’ union president.

“Falah is a junction of both curricula, old divine and modern education. I have learnt a lot from here and it is enough to open my heart and mind,” said Beg, who now runs 12 schools and colleges and four madrassas in different parts of Rajasthan.

Stressing on the necessary changes in the educational system of the madrassas, Madani said: “There is an old style of teaching in madrassa system and certain changes are needed in the syllabus.”

“The teaching pattern in madrassas depends on books, not subjects; we have to change it now,” he pointed out.

Falah has a panel to check the quality of education and also conducts a parent-teacher meeting every three months, a rare practice in madrassas.
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One can see several wall magazines in different languages like Arabic, Urdu and also English at Jamiatul Falah.

Mohammad Arif, a doctor of Unani medicine in Al-Falah Hospital, thinks that the madrassas should provide the lead to the community in every field. “There are large numbers of people who follow the madrassa teaching. If the madrassas play such kind of role, then the thinking of people about madrassas would be changed,” Arif said.

Madani states there is a misconception that only Muslim students can study in madrassas. “Our doors are open for students of every religion, cast and area. Hindu students have been part of Falah in the past.”

ZEENEWS.com 30-12-2011

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Action for girls’ education

Girl Child Education, Right to Education

Nearly two-thirds of children who are denied their right to education are female. At the World Education Forum, Dakar, 2000, countries agreed on ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, will have access to complete free and compulsory education of good quality. As we approach 2012, what is the status of girls education in India?

A focus on girls education was put in place since the 1986 National Policy on Education and the 1992 Programme of Action, followed by the SSA programme launched in 2001, National Curriculum Framework in 2005 and the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education in 2010. These policies were complemented by other schemes such as National Programme for the Education of Girls at the Elementary Level, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme, both ensuring inclusion and quality education for girls. The Mahila Samakhya programme was launched in 10 states targeting marginalised sections of rural women. Access to education was also facilitated by separate schools for girls, availability of open learning resources, residential schooling, coaching facilities; scholarships, textbooks, uniforms and transport including bicycles. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (known as RTE) Act, 2010, charted a new roadmap for gender equality in education in India.

DELIVERY MECHANISM

Despite all these efforts, surprisingly, a large number of girls still remain outside the education system. According to Karin Hulshof, Unicef India representative, out of 81% girls joining school at the primary level, around 50% drop out at the secondary level because of factors such as child marriage, child labour, etc. We must not look at girls as a liability but as an asset. The SSA and RTE Act are tools that can empower the girl child. We need an effective delivery mechanism and have more gender-friendly classrooms, she said.

R Govinda, vice-chancellor, National University of Educational Planning and Administration ( NUEPA), feels that though there are various policies in place, when it comes to implementation, there is a wide gap. Through various policies we have placed the education of the girl child in the foreground. I feel, policywise, we are on the right track. The RTE has made education a fundamental right. After 25 years of prioritising girls education, we have seen a tremendous change. But a lot more needs to be done.

He further adds, We can address the problem by engaging at different levels. By getting all girls in school, by examining what happens in school by paying attention to the socio-emotional conditions of the girl child, what the child learns in class in terms of the quality, by providing trained female teachers and keeping a track of what happens to girls beyond schools. That is when the expectations of parents and the community come into effect.

NATIONAL VISION

The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) and ministry for human resources development (MHRD) drafted a National vision for Girls Education in India – Roadmap to 2015 with an aim to building a comprehensive approach towards girls education, which was discussed at a two-day national convention in the Capital recently.

The Vision Document provides a framework for action for girls education in India. The plan of action for the next one year is the Shiksha Ka Haq Abhiyan which will be the cornerstone for the implementation of RTE. The government will engage with the community, media, states, and other stakeholders to create an environment and mechanism to ensure implementation at every level for girls education.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Implement strong legislation outlawing child labour, genderbased violence, and harassment of girls

Provide residential facilities, transport and other incentives to attract qualified female teachers to particularly rural and remote schools

Address safety issues of girls

Gender-friendly classrooms and separate toilets

BARRIERS

Household/ Community Level

Direct and indirect costs of schooling

Status of women

Self-esteem and self-perception

Child marriage, child labour, domestic/household work

RTE RATIONALE

A moral responsibility on every parent/ guardian to admit their children to school

The right to be admitted to a class appropriate to her age

Times of India, 16 December 2011

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Emerging India leaves women out of loop

Girl Child Education

India is a frontrunner in the race for rapid growth among the emerging economies collectively known as BRICS, but it lags well behind the others when it comes to taking women along in its progress. Fewer Indian women are literate and represented in the workforce than those in the four other emerging nations (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) reveals a detailed analysis of data released recently by the Population Research Bureau and USAID recently. When it comes to placing women in the power corridors of politics too, India is outdone by all except Brazil.

As of early 2011, India was home to 595.4 million women, second only to China. But the percentage of Indian girls in the 15 to 24 age group who can read and write is only 74% compared to the 98% or more in all the other BRICS nations. India is outdone by the others in terms of gender parity in secondary school enrolment too. In India, the number of girls enrolled in secondary schools was only 88% of the number of boys enrolled, as compared to 111%, 105% in China and South Africa and 97% in Russia. Even neighbouring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka could put India to shame with the corresponding figures being 112% and 102%, respectively.

Not surprisingly, the gender bias manifested in schools carries into the labour market as well. India has half the proportion of women in its labour force as that of China. While 33% of Indian women over the age of 15 are economically active, China has an impressive 67% women participating in the labour force, followed by Brazils 60%, Russias 58% and South Africas 47%.

“This is just another indication that Indias growth is not inclusive on many counts. While there are some examples of women breaking the glass ceiling and making it to the highest corporate positions, the growth obviously hasnt created a space for all women, points out Nandita Shah of Akshara, a womens resource centre.

Explaining why nations like China and Russia may have pipped India on gender scores, Shah points out that the former provide both sexes a basic right to education and health, which opens up future opportunities. While there may be an inherent son preference in China, for instance, unlike India, the state offers social security for all children, and thus the discrimination may not translate in children getting access to schools or doctors, says Shah.

Economist Vibhuti Patel of SNDT Womens University believes the lack of gender investment in India lies at the root of the problem. While the UN mandates 6% of GDP on dealing with gender issues, India invests only 1.3% of its GDP on gender. Unless there is true political will to correct gender imbalances, India will continue to exclude women in its growth, Patel says. Women in positions of power too are a rarity in India where 11% of parliamentary representatives are women, in contrast to South Africa’s impressive 45%.

The analysis was done from the World’s Women and Girls 2011 data sheets recently released by Washington-based PRB. The data covers women across 180 countries.

Times of India, May 2, 2011

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The missing daughters of Jhajjar

Girl Child Education

Jhajjar, Haryana: Fifteen-year-old Aarti Ahelawat waits patiently for the midday meal at the government senior secondary school in Chhuchhakwas, a village in Haryana’s Jhajjar district. Her younger brother goes to the privately run Paramount Senior Secondary School a few metres away, and doesn’t have to wait for the free meal.

“Mother fed him a sumptuous breakfast,” says Ahelawat, who left home hungry.

Social dilemma: Sunita, who hails from Jharkhand, with her one-month-old daughter. A skewed sex ratio in Haryana is forcing many young men to look for brides outside the state. Photo: Pradeep Gaur / Mint

Ahelwat’s story and rampant female foeticide explain why Jhajjar has the worst child sex ratio in the country (the number of girls for every 1,000 boys among children till the age of six), according to the census that was released last week.

Jhajjar reported a child sex ratio of 774 compared with the national average of 914 and the state average of 830.

Jhajjar’s experience is not unique. It is only an extreme manifestation of a larger national trend that cuts across class and the rural-urban divide.

The census numbers also raise questions about the effectiveness of policies that have, in the last decade, tried to reverse the decline in the child sex ratio, which became apparent in Census 2001.

Researchers and activists say the skewed ratio is the reflection of a deep-rooted social prejudice and will require a strong response.

“Though it is illegal, most people get ultrasound tests done to determine the sex of the baby, and if it is a girl, they go in for abortions,” said Santara Devi, chief of the village council of Dariyapur village, also in Jhajjar district, referring to a law banning sex selection. “But nobody says it openly these days, unlike in earlier times.”

India’s Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, prohibits “sex selection, before or after conception” and prevents expectant parents from using pre-natal diagnostic techniques to find out the sex of their baby.

The problem

A teacher at a government school in Dariyapur echoes Devi’s sentiments.

“People getting ‘ultrasounds’ to determine the baby’s sex is a norm. There is nothing wrong with it,” said Raj Kumar, who teaches mathematics. “Boys, after all, are boys, and they are the ones who carry forward a family’s legacy.”

Kumar has one son. He said his wife had a “miscarriage when she was carrying a girl”.

With the availability of portable ultrasound machines, the technology to identify the gender of the foetus is now more easily available across the country.

“There has been no improvement in the condition of women in Jhajjar and other adjoining areas. With advanced sex-determination techniques, foeticides have become even more common,” said Manoj Solanki, who runs the Association for Social Research and Action, a non-governmental organization. “Girls are still considered to be a social burden and practices like dowry are responsible for such thinking.”

Analysts and researchers say the ratio has become skewed because the girl child that is born is discriminated against, pushing up the mortality rate in the 0-6 age group.

The infant mortality rate for boys is 64 per 1,000; it is 73 per 1,000 for girls.

“Female infanticide is fairly uncommon now. But apart from sex-selective abortions, what happens is how the girl child is brought up—it makes her more vulnerable to diseases and death,” said the principal of a big government school near Azadpur village, also in Jhajjar district.

Although the lady has worked in the area of women’s empowerment and awareness, she wanted to remain anonymous.

“For instance, most boys who come to school are well-fed, while the girls seem to be starving and waiting eagerly for the midday meal. Then again, boys are given better medical treatment, nutrition…while the girl child tends to be ignored,” she said. “One must remember that children in the 0-6 age group are very vulnerable to sickness. All this leads to a higher mortality rate for girls, and hence, a skewed child sex ratio.”

The problem has been exacerbated by a decline in fertility rates, which normally comes with improved economic conditions.

According to the 2011 Census, the number of children in the 0-6 age group has fallen from about 163.8 million in 2001 to about 158.8 million now—an indicator of declining fertility.

Falling numbers

However, the census also points out that the decline is greater for the girl child. While there was a decline of almost three million among girls, the decline among boys was only a little over two million.

“There are two main causes of skewed sex ratios in places like Jhajjar. One, foeticide, and two, dipping fertility rates,” said activist Sabu George, who works in the area of women development and empowerment. “With economic development and prosperity, the preference for a small family has increased, and along with it the desire for a boy child has been further enhanced.”

George, too, claims female infanticide is rare and limited to some very “difficult areas”.

An example of the small family phenomenon can be seen in Khetawas village, where most couples prefer to have two children, or even one child. Of a population of around 2,200 in the village, only 900 are women.

“People are now becoming more aware of the benefits of small families, and hence, are limiting themselves to one or two children,” said village council chief Malta Devi. ” Because of that, the demand for a boy has increased even more. So when a couple has a boy as their first born, they undergo surgeries to ensure they can’t conceive again.”

“We had two boys and then I got an operation. Why should I risk having any girls now? We don’t want so many children,” said Hemlata of Khetawas.

The social repercussions of this phenomenon of the missing daughters are already apparent in Jhajjar.

In the conservative Jat-dominated Mathanhail village, the skewed sex ratio is forcing many young men to marry from outside the state.

“The main problem of less women is we are finding it difficult to get our sons married, ” said 50-year-old Krishna, whose two sons in their 20s have been unable to find suitable matches. “So we have to now get girls from Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal, Orissa…. This is leading to further cultural problems.”

Naresh, who uses only one name and married Sunita from Jharkhand two years ago, said: “I faced a big problem. There were no women. I couldn’t get married till I was over 30, when we got Sunita from another state.”

They now have a one-month-old daughter.

“I got married around two years ago and have managed to now learn the customs and language,” said Sunita. “But it is very different here as compared to where I am from. I have to cover my face. It wasn’t so strict there. It is more conservative here.”

Both Sunita and Naresh say their daughter will be treated differently.

Livemint, April 4, 2011

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‘Girls go to govt schools, boys to private’

Girl Child Education

MUMBAI: At a time when Women’s Day is being celebrated with much fanfare the world over, India has a long way to go when it comes to educating ‘Sita’.

While a growing number of parents across rural India have begun sending their girls to school, there’s a countrywide preference for sending boys to private schools and girls to government schools.

Educationists feel this has a lot to do with the perception that private schools are better than government schools, and that if one has to spend on education, the perceived return on investment is higher for a boy.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2010, one of the most authoritative private surveys for rural India, the percentage of girls in government schools is higher than boys in the seven to 14 age group, while the percentage of boys is higher in private schools.

“When it comes to making a choice, families have pobably decided to send their daughters to government schools and sons to private schools, as there is a popular perception that private schools are better than government schools,” says Rukmini Banerji, director, ASER centre.

“The numbers come as a little surprise. Private schools are a lot more expensive than government schools. Parents would probably choose to send their sons to private schools, if they had the money, as they feel private schools deliver better quality and are more career-oriented,” says Sonia Gill of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.

Interestingly, while the gender divide exists in most states, it is almost negligible in Maharashtra and Bihar, far less than the all-India average.

While the figures come as a little surprise for Maharashtra, known to be a more progressive state, Bihar has seen a dramatic narrowing in the gender divide.

Times of India, March 11, 2011

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1000 girls’ schools for backward belts

Girl Child Education

The Centre plans to open over 1,000 residential schools for girls in backward and remote areas as part of its plan to universalise education. The National Sample Survey has found out that over 81 lakh children aged 6 to 13 years remain out of school and that most of them are girls. The human resource development ministry has told the finance ministry it wants to set up 1,073 new Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas. These are residential upper primary schools meant mainly for tribal, Dalit, backward-class and minority girls in blocks where the rural female literacy rate is below the national average and the gender gap in literacy wider than the national average.

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School Is a Right, but Will Indian Girls Be Able to Go?

Girl Child Education, Right to Education, Uncategorized

The day the Indian government made education a fundamental right for 192 million children, Dimple Yadav, 11, woke up at 4:30 in the morning. Eyes heavy with sleep, she cleaned her house (in a village about 24 miles outside the capital), made tea and got busy preparing food for her family. After her parents, who work as laborers in Delhi, left at 6 a.m., Dimple fed and clothed her 5- and 7-year-old siblings and made her way to the local school with them in tow. By the time she took her seat in class, she relaxed for the first time since waking up, and was soon lulled into drowsiness, missing most of the day’s lessons. “I like school,” she said later. “But I do not know how long I will study. My mother has been saying that she needs me to be home so that someone can look after my brother and sister.”

For Dimple, April 1, the day when the Right to Education Act (RTE) came into being to mandate free and compulsory education for all Indian children between the ages of 6 and 14, has no significance. She may read about it in high school — if she can continue her education till then. But in all probability she will drop out of school soon, adding another number to the 50% of young girls who have done the same across India, for as simple a reason as having to take care of siblings. The RTE does not protect children from being taken out of school for agricultural work or housework, nor do laws against child labor consider housework or agricultural work to be child labor.

The RTE is ambitious, to say the least. In the next five years, the government aims to provide free and compulsory education to millions of children, build new, accessible schools, improve infrastructure, train existing teachers and recruit new ones. The biggest challenges will be bringing in the whopping 10 million children who are out of school already and filling the shortage of trained teachers. But infrastructural gaps are part of the problem too. Forty-six percent of public schools do not have toilets for girls; it’s one reason parents are reluctant to send their daughters to class. The Prime Minister himself admitted that passing a law was by no means the end of the road: “To think that we have passed a law and all children will get educated is not right,” said Manmohan Singh. “What we have done is prepare a framework to get quality education. It is for the entire community to contribute and participate in this national endeavor.”

Nilanjana Bhowmick, Time Magazine, 29 April 2010

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Universal education still not reaching girls, underprivileged

Girl Child Education, Right to Education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan

New Delhi: The government’s push to get all children between the ages of 6 and 14 into school seems to be having mixed results: overall enrolment has indeed increased, but girls and the underprivileged aren’t deriving their fair share of the benefits.

The numbers indicate that the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme may be achieving its mandate, with as many as 96.5% of the children in the target group nationwide attending school, according to a survey conducted by the human resource development (HRD) ministry.

SSA, the government’s flagship universal education programme, was launched in 2001-02. Enrolment increased from 131 million in 2001-02 to 182 million in 2004-05. Out-of-school children dropped from 32 million in 2001-02 to 7.1 million in 2005-06, a 78% reduction.

As much as Rs28, 077 crore, excluding additional funding by state governments, was spent between 2002 and 2007 on the programme, part of the government’s initiative to promote inclusive growth.

But the programme hasn’t had as beneficial an effect among sections of society that need it the most, according to data restricted to 10 states and one union territory.

The selective data showed that the enrolment of girls had risen by just 0.62 percentage point—and was still less than half—from 46.43% in 2003 to 47.05% in 2007. Among scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST), enrolment had actually fallen from 32.9% to 31.84%.

Experts say the institutional mindset towards children from these categories could be hindering the programme. Motivation is key to pushing such children to make use of the system, according to Anita Rampal, a professor at Delhi University’s department of education.

What’s important “is that the school ethos is supportive of such children”, Rampal said. “In many schools, including even Delhi, teachers usually do not have much expectations from these children. That’s how children’s experience of a classroom is constructed.”

The survey shows that the enrolment of girls had also fallen in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh between 2003 and 2007. The enrolment of SC and ST children had fallen in Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal in the same period.

Given that one of SSA’s key objectives is to bridge gender and social category gaps at the primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010, several state governments such as Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have introduced incentives such as free textbooks and bicycles for girls to go to school this year.

The HRD ministry has announced several initiatives under the 11th Plan to boost educational standards among the SC and ST communities, including the setting up of 20 Navodaya Vidyalayas and 10 schools in districts having a large concentration of these communities.

“The states need to make sure that the enrolment of girls and SC and STs improve as, besides overall improvement in enrolment ratio, the objective of SSA is also to narrow inequality,” said a Planning Commission official, who did not want to be identified.

The HRD ministry’s presentation said student absenteeism (less than 75% attendance) was high in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam. The reasons: work at home (sibling care and helping parents), ill health, festivals and seasonal migration.

It also adds that some habitations in Bihar, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal do not have access to any school.

The SSA programme, widely hailed for its achievements in universal enrolment, has often been criticized for its lack of flexibility in funding patterns and the absence of any concrete mechanism to assess teaching-learning outcomes.

“The measurement of teaching-learning is also key to the success of such programmes,” Rampal said. The curriculum doesn’t “just mean what the textbooks say, but also what happens in the classroom”.

MINT, 15 Oct 2009

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