24th January is a special day for two reasons, it is International Day of Education as well as National Girl Child Day. This dual celebration sheds light on the bond between these crucial events and what they stand for. The education of an Indian girl child is of utmost importance and a cause that needs attention, recognition and support. Though it is true that girl child education has come a long way since India gained her Independence, the disparity between the genders is evident.
Why Do Girls Drop Out Of School?
It can’t be denied that India’s formal education system does not provide the skills that children require to earn a livelihood. Adolescent girls in India are especially disadvantaged, also given their low school enrollment rates. They are among the most economically vulnerable groups who typically lack access to financial capital and have limited opportunities to gain the education, knowledge, and skills that can lead to economic advancement.
1. Household Responsibilities
Traditional gender norms push girls into helping with household chores and sibling care at a tender age. They are expected to help cook, clean, tidy-up and look after the house. This results in a lack of time or opportunities to get an education.
2. Early Marriage
Child marriage, though illegal, is still practised in parts of the country. Girls as young as 11 and 12 are forced into marriages and sent to their husband’s house as a bride + maid. This completely puts a stop to their education.
Whether due to a lack of resources, proper health education or common taboos about being “unclean” during menstruation, thousands of girls drop out of school around middle school due to their menstruation cycles.
4. Lack Of Safety
Safety of girls travelling alone is a major concern for Indians as most villages and hamlets have a single school for tens of kilometres. A fear that educating girls causes excessive independence is seemingly manifested in the attitude that parents take to a girl’s education.
5. Infrastructure Barriers
It is commonly perceived that girls suffer for various reasons from the lack of infrastructure much worse than boys do. For instance, 40% of all government schools lacked a functioning common toilet and another 40% lacked a separate toilet for girls. This, in fact, creates even more reluctance to allow for girls to be educated.
Did You Know?
65% of adolescent girls who drop out of school do so to work at home or to beg.
NGOs & Institutions Helping Girls Stay In School
1. Teach For India (TFI)
Shaheen Mistri, the founder of TFI, believes that only a people’s movement can ensure children’s quality education. Since 2009, TFI has identified and recruited bright candidates as fellows every year. Fellows commit to teaching low-income schools for two years. They enable the holistic development of students, and also make an impact on the school and community through their initiatives. At the end of two years, fellows are equipped with leadership skills and a deep understanding of the educational system. Today, alumni of the fellowship occupy positions of influence where they have the power to initiate macro-level changes. With a presence in 7 cities where 1,100 fellows are shaping the lives of 38,000 students, TFI is ensuring children receive education and at the same time, is building dynamic young leaders.
2. CARE India
CARE India’s Girl Education Programme (GEP) focuses on improving the conditions by which girls, especially those in the marginalized communities can access quality education. Education is an important tool that enables women and girls to participate in decisions that affect their lives and in improving their social status. GEP provides technical support while working through the formal school systems as well as through the integrated programs of CARE India. Following the enactment of the Right to Education Act by the Government, this NGO has been actively engaged in several forums and consortiums along with other international agencies and the larger civil society to support the implementation of the Act in its true spirit. GEP is committed to enabling effective implementation of education provisions and policies for rights, entitlements and empowerment of girls from most marginalized sections of the society in safe and secure, inclusive and gender-responsive environments.
Did You Know?
Girls are twice less likely as boys to receive at least four years of schooling, 30% of girls from the economically disadvantaged groups have never set foot inside a classroom.
3. Make A Difference (MAD)
Ideated by six passionate friends in Kochi, this youth-driven organization registered as a nonprofit in 2006. Currently, the organization works with 3,400 children in 23 cities with the help of an impressive 3,800 strong volunteer base. It strives to ensure that even the most vulnerable children in shelters are able to realize their dreams and break the vicious circle of poverty. Volunteers provide educational and mentoring support and help build the children’s emotional health. 89% of its high school youth who leave shelters are placed with jobs or are enrolled in universities, and 78% of its students received scholarships for tuition and living costs.
4. The Akshaya Patra Foundation (TAPF)
Established in 2000 and headquartered in Bengaluru, the organization addresses malnutrition and supports the right to education of disadvantaged children. Working on a public-private partnership model, it provides fresh and nutritious meals to children in government and government-aided schools as an implementing agency of the government’s midday meal schemes. With a vision that no child shall be deprived of education because of hunger, it aims to feed 5 million children by 2025. TAPF focuses on technology to help scale their operations, with its state-of-the-art kitchens receiving worldwide acclaim. Today, TAPF is the world’s largest not for profit run Midday meal programme, serving 1.76 million children in 12 states. On February 11, 2019, it commemorated the serving of 3 billion meals!
5. Akanksha Foundation
In 1991, Shaheen Mistri and a few friends set up in a classroom donated at the Holy Name High School in Mumbai. Subsequently, 60 afterschool centres were set up over the next 16 years, with the help of teachers and volunteers, to help 3,000 odd children. The School Project, a collaborative effort of the foundation and the municipal corporations of Mumbai and Pune began in 2007. Today, it runs 21 schools in the two cities. It works to design strong teams and structures that can ensure progress in Student Achievement, Youth Development, and Community Engagement. It develops excellent educators, empowers teachers with best practices in pedagogy, and ensures stakeholders are held accountable for student growth. Akanksha Schools and Centers have consistently outperformed other schools in the SSC and HSC examinations in Maharashtra. They have been successful in improving student attendance, student retention, parent participation, and teacher retention.
Did You Know?
The literacy rate of women in India is only at 65%.
5 Ways You Can Help Indian Girls Get Uninterrupted Education In India
1. Sponsor A Child
There are tons of NGOs and organizations that have the option of providing sponsorship programs to girls in India. You can become the education guardian of a girl and help her stay in school. You get to meet/visit your sponsored child and share emails/letters. Not just education, but your sponsorship can help them get nutritious meals, a savings account for the future and more.
2. Set Up A Free Tuition Centre
A centre for education that gives girls access for several hours of the day is a fantastic idea to boost literacy. Providing them education according to their timetable can help resolve a number of issues. This flexibility will not hamper their chores or responsibilities and will impart knowledge to the best of their ability.
3. Help Raise Awareness About Menstruation
Volunteer with organizations that go to villages, hamlets and slums to raise awareness about menstruation and remove the stigma attached to it. You can start by holding an event at your nearest low-income housing sector or gather around your domestic help, maids and staff. One major way to resolve this is to provide the girls with sanitary pads and teach them about menstrual hygiene.
4. Help Girls Get Jobs
One of the major reasons girls are married off early is the perception that they can’t earn money or support their family. Just as it is a norm for 16-year-olds in the USA to start working part-time, give similar opportunities to girls to do the same and prove their worth. And this includes real jobs like working in shops, BPOs and more that pay well and can be flexible to accommodate school hours.
5. Aid In The Building Of Vital Infrastructure
NGOs like Sanitisation First are building toilets across India for women. One of the main factors that affect the education of girls is the lack of toilets. By donating to such charities and volunteering at these organizations, you can actually make a difference. An amenity that many of us take for granted is a luxury for several girls and women.
Did You Know?
10 years after the Right to Education (RTE) Act came into being, nearly 40% of adolescent girls in the age group of 15-18 years are not attending school.
Change is vital and the need for it is never ending. And though we are making tremendous progress in some areas as a country, we still lack in providing equal opportunities to men and women. This and the ever-increasing need for education is the fuel to keep the fire for change burning. It’s time we step up and build a better world for our children. It starts with you, and it starts today!