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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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