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‘We must make sure girls stay in school’

Girl Child Education

Girl child education is one of the three causes that Stayfree DNA I Can Women’s Half Marathon is championing. Here’s why.

Though the overall literacy rate in Maharashtra as per the 2011 provisional census is 82.91%, the female literacy rate in rural Maharashtra is a dismal 67.3%. This means, 32% of rural females are illiterate. This is a cause for concern that has also been red-flagged in the India Human Development Report 2011, especially because female literacy has an effect on other factors, such as a child’s health.

Experts agree that because of years of work in the field of girl child education, getting girls to enroll in primary schools is less of an obstacle today than previously. However, they emphasise that the biggest challenge currently is to ensure girls reach secondary school and do not drop out.

“Low value is attached to girls’ education,” explains Kreeanne Rabadi, regional director, CRY. “Early marriage and early pregnancy keeps girls trapped in a cycle of discrimination.”
In rural India, a girl is often taken out of school to help with household chores or take care of a sibling or an elderly relative.

She is not any better off in urban India where she is forced to abandon her education to be hired as a domestic help. Many also drop out because of things we take for granted, like the lack of separate toilets for girls. At times, girls stop going to school because there are no secondary schools available.

Most experts DNA spoke to emphasised that the government needs to give serious attention to the issue of secondary schools. “In Mumbai, there are 1,234 primary municipal schools and only 43 secondary municipal schools. In the M Ward (which includes Chembur), there are huge slums, but no government secondary schools,” says Farida Lambay, co-founder and director of Pratham, an NGO that works to provide underprivileged children with quality education.

Deval Sanghavi, CEO of the NGO Dasra, also blames the mindset of parents. “There is a misconception that families do not send their girls to schools because they are poor. In India, a girl’s education in a municipal school is free, so it is not a financial constraint. A family in rural Rajasthan will not send their girl to a municipal school for free, but will send the son to private school at a cost!”

daily News and Analysis, 11 February 2012

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