Women Education in India
While illiteracy levels in India continue to stand at about 54% for women and 76% for men, school enrollment, attendance and quality of education, especially for the girl-child threatens to deteriorate even further if appropriate measures are not put in place and mostly this is due to the lack of women education in India. Illiteracy is one of the main obstacles in women empowerment in India. Let’s sample 3 case studies below:
Case study 1
Amla (not her real name) didn’t tell her parents when the older boys started to harass her on the one-hour-long walk to school from their apartment in Madanpur Khadar, south of Delhi. They occasionally grabbed her hands and demanded that the little girl kiss them. She knew that the blame would be placed on her, as if she was some-what encouraging them to do so. But she was pretty right when her family found out. They literally ”banned” her from ever going back to school again, worried about the effects on their ”honor” in the event that she was sexually assaulted. Guess what, now the plan is to marry her off once she reaches 16 years of age.
Case study 2
Amita is luckier, her mother is determined to take her to school so that one day she would become a doctor. However, in her class, there are 70 pupils and the teacher (one teacher) never shows up for most parts of the lessons. The facilities at the school are poor, the drinking water is so filthy that pupils have to bring along their own water to school. And what’s more, Amita confesses that the toilets are very dirty that she has never used them since she got enrolled in that school. Though she doesn’t understand, her mother saves at least 900 rupees so that she can get coached in 3 subjects where she is not doing well.
Case study 3
Sumen, a woman who is 35 years old is battling with her daughter’s future. The little girl who is only 9 years has learning disabilities and her mother has tried every year to enroll him in schools but with very little success. Luckily, the authorities have agreed that the little girls should get some education, but it’s only once in 7 days. Sumen, who is a house wife wonders if she should try to teach her daughter herself. The question is this; how will she teach her when she never went to school herself? It’s sad how she was quoted speaking—”But if I haven’t studied myself, how much value will I add to her life?”
Just 4 years ago, the World Bank upgraded India from ”poor” to middle income country. The UK, on the other hand announced that it would end its financial aid to India come 2015, citing unclear reasons. Under the Rights to Education Act that was passed in the year 2009, every child between ages 6 and 14 was guaranteed a free and compulsory education, which saw enrollment figures at an all-time impressive-sounding of 98%.
Going to school verses the quality of education
Concerns have been raised by those monitoring millennium development goals. They are saying that going to school is one thing, but the quality of education is another. Pupils enrolled in public schools in India are experiencing numerous challenges as far as their education is concerned, says Oxfam India’s Anjela Taneja. Some of the issues that have been sited include:
- Over-crowding of classes
- Absentee teachers
- Unsanitary conditions
- Teachers who lack professional qualification
Because of the prevailing conditions, it is feared that pupils, especially the girl-child may be adversely affected. Parents may decide that it’s not going to be beneficial taking their children to school, so they would rather have them remain at home. This definitely needs to change with the encouragement given to women education in India.
The National Council for Teacher Education released a report in 2010 saying that an additional 1.2 million teachers were needed to fulfill the RET Act guidelines. A civil society made up of about 10,000 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) realized that only 5% of government schools complied with the required infrastructural standards as spelt out in the act. 40% of the primary schools had more than 30 pupils per class, while 60% of classes didn’t have electricity.
The RTE forum also discovered that 21% of the teachers weren’t professionally trained teachers.
Worse still, the independent annual status of Education Report discovered that rural schools were most affected by poor achievements. More than half of the children aged 10 and below who are in standard 5 were unable to read a standard 2 level text. Now Taneja says that the only way to put a stop to girl-child labor is to fix the education system.
The enrollment figures are not a sure way of gauging who is attending school and who is not. Taneja says that the enrollment figures don’t reflect who is attending school and who is not. In 2008, the number of primary school-aged children was estimated at 2.3 million. Other estimates indicated that it could be as high as 8 million. According to the government report, the primary school drop-out rate was at 25% in 2009.
It’s the girls and marginalized groups who are being affected. It’s a fact that girls in India attend primary school roughly in the same numbers as boys, but the gap widens as they grow older because they are either married off or forced to stay at home to help with the chores.
It’s shocking because out of the school drop-outs in 2008, 62% were girls who make up two thirds of the illiterate population aged between 15 and 24 years of age. Most of these girls were from tribal groups, lowest in the caste system. Nevertheless, neighborhood private schools with a low budget have also mushroomed to serve children and parents (like Sumen’s daughter) who really want to go to school. The problem is that they are unregulated, so it’s possible that they will have untrained teachers and also lack the necessary infrastructure.
Challenges that need to be addressed
Back to the streets, girls like Amla are still suffering what is called ”eve-teasing”. It affects women education In India in various ways. The violence suffered by women also make them scared, not knowing what to do. And the police just sit and watch, without much action being taken.
How girl-child education in India is being addressed
A lot of campaigns geared to encourage women education have been started. One of them, branded as ”send my friend to school” by Millie and Sam (names have been changed) from Ringwood school in Hampshire have changed the lives of young girls who want to pursue education.
Such campaigns have also encouraged lobby UK politicians on pushing up for universal primary education.