This article aims to documented and understand how education is not an easy task for girls mainly in poor families. We talk about the various major issues revolving around the high dropout rates amongst girls in India. And many initiatives by the government to strengthen the education system of India.
Education is the single most important factor to ensure gender equality and empowerment. But, gender inequality in education is a persistent problem in Indian society- especially for girls residing in rural areas, belonging to lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and lower castes. India has succeeded in many ways to address the educational inequalities- like moving towards universal school enrollments and coming up with educational policies based on gender. However, education gaps still exist.
And gender is not only about males and females but it is also about the third gender called transgender. They also faced much discrimination regarding education as they are not much appreciated in studies.
Gender education gaps
According to census 2011, a person above 7 years is considered literate if he/she can read and write in any language with understanding. A person is not considered literate if he/she can only read but cannot write. The Census also states that it is not necessary that a person should have received formal learning or minimum education to be considered literate.
Women constitute 48.5% of the country’s population. According to Census 2011, the female literacy rate is only 64.64% (as opposed to the male literacy rate of 80.89%) of the total female population of India, with Kerala being at the highest with 91.98% rate, and, Bihar and Rajasthan being at the lowest levels with 53.33% and 52.66% respectively
Indian women having the most illiteracy rates in Asia as there is discrimination among girls and boy child among most of the Indian families as they don’t allow girls for higher education some due to patriarchy and some due to economic crises, the huge gender gap in enrolment for science subjects, the value of quality in school, etc.
Following are the major issues revolving around the high dropout rates amongst girls in India:
Poverty happens to be the single biggest cause of illiteracy in India and a precursor to all other effects. In a poor family, girls are the main victims; they are malnourished and are denied the opportunity of better education. The poor parents are unable to afford the education of their children. It is very difficult for them to meet the daily expenses. In such a situation they cannot buy textbooks, pencils, erasers, etc., and pay school fees. Even if they can afford to educate one child, the son would always be preferred over the daughter. . Illiteracy and poverty go together because they are similar expressions of lack of access to resources in society.
- Poor school facilities
Inadequate school facilities can sometimes serve as a deterrent for the girl child’s participation in formal schooling.
Lack of basic sanitation and privacy is driving girls out of school. According to UDISE 2013-14 data for the Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya mission, 9.27% of schools in the entire country do not have a separate toilet for girl students, while 8.03% of toilets are dysfunctional. The lack of water, inadequate sanitation, unhygienic common or separate toilets, and absence of separate toilets for girls reflect in their extremely low attendance in schools.
- Lack of Transport
Some villages do not have schools and the students need to travel long distances to study. This is also one of the main reasons behind female illiteracy as the family does not find it safe for girls to travel such long distances every day. Due to staggered habitations, children are forced to travel more than 3 km. Thus, the daughters are usually discouraged due to unsafe environments and the fear of sexual harassment and violence on way.
Patriarchy refers to a system of society in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. The normality of covert forms of discrimination, and how everyday form of oppression determine institutional spaces, present a great challenge for women and girls to negotiate spaces and rights in public life. Patriarchy sees women as nothing more than domestic workers, which in turn discourages them right at a young age, to not pursue education and rather help in cooking, washing, and other household chores- which they are meant to do at later stages of life; after marriage as well. Thus, parental reluctance to educate girls is a huge factor inhibiting their access to education.
- Lack of teachers
Girls are more likely to attend schools if they have female teachers. Girls are more comfortable and more local with female staff, thus are found to be active in focusing and participating in the learning process. Also, the parents – especially in rural areas- are hesitant to send their daughters to schools that majorly have male teachers. The dearth of female teachers is a concerning issue. Nearly all committees and commissions that have looked into illiteracy have recommended increased recruitment of female teachers.
- Household chores
Fixed school hours do not suit many girls in rural areas; as they are required to lend a helping hand at household chores, at farms, and fields during those hours. Girls are even expected to take care of their younger siblings, while their parents are out on their daily wage. This is one of the causes of the low participation of girls in education. The enrolment rates of girls and their retention can be improved if the schools offer flexible hours. Flexible school timings have been tried in Rajasthan under the Shiksha Karmi Project and Lok Jumbish, and the results are quite encouraging.
- Sexual Harassment and Violence
Parents often complain about the security issues of girls attending schools. Instances of abduction, rape, and molestation of girls dampen the enthusiasm of girls and their parents in pursuing education beyond a particular age; thereafter they are bound to sit at home and save their chastity.
- Early marriage:
The patriarchal society still endorses the idea of pubescent marriages of girls. Most child marriage involves underage women, many of whom are in poor socio-economic conditions. Jharkhand is the state with the highest child marriage rates in India.
- Menarche and Menstruation:
A national study by AC Nielsen and NGO Plan India in 2012 found that lack of facilities causes widespread absenteeism each month, stating that girls miss an average of 50 days of school each year because of menstruation. It also found that 23% of girls in India drop out of school when they hit puberty.
The Government of India has taken many initiatives to strengthen the education system of India.
The major centrally sponsored schemes are the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), National Program for Education of Girls at Elementary Education (NPEGEL), Midday Meal Scheme, Right to Education (RTE) Act, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, etc to improve the educational situation of India but somewhere we are still lacking behind and more work is needed to improve the quality of education in India, as well as the condition of girls, is more worst than boys in case of education as they are getting the equity, not equality.
A women’s life is better when she is educated as she can take her own decision not dependent on others as this study shows that still, the literacy rate is low of women more work is needed to be done to improve the condition.
- Bashin, K. (2003). Understanding gender. New Delhi: Women Unlimited