For some girls in Maharashtra’s drought zones, there’s no padhao or bachao

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on July 25, 2019 Published on July 25, 2019

Girls are often pulled out of school to help with household chores   -  REUTERS

With their families unable to pay the fees, many drop out; some even commit suicide

Like most girls in drought-prone areas, 17-year-old Rupali Pawar strongly believed that education was the only tool to fight poverty.

Despite all odds, she studied hard and got a good score in the Common Entrance Test for BTech, and got an admission letter from a private institution in Punjab.

Her farmer father Ramkrishna knocked all doors to pay the admission fee of ₹1 lakh, but in vain. He decided to sell his 3-acre land.

Few offers

Some people offered a very low price while others refused to buy the land, located as it is in the dry zone of Solapur. July 20 was the last day to pay the fee. On Wednesday, Rupali consumed poison to end her life.

Notwithstanding the government’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign, the ground reality remains grim for girls, especially for those from drought-hit areas.

In 2015, Swati Pitale from Maharashtra’s Latur district ended her life as she had missed her junior college classes since her parents couldn’t afford to pay ₹260 to renew her bus pass. Swati, who used to commute in a State transport bus from her village Jadhala to Kingaon, had dreamt of getting educated and earning money to help her poor family.

In 2016, 18-year-old Mohini Bhise hanged herself in Wagholi village in Latur. A year later, Sheetal Vayal jumped into a village well. Both of them left suicide notes saying they didn’t wish to burden their parents, who wanted to marry them off.

According to Osmanabad-based Sunanda Kharate, an activist working with women farmers, perennial droughts in the region have made lives more difficult for girls. Education — which they view as the logical route to end poverty — is a distant dream for most.

NFHS survey report

The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report reveals that 69 per cent of girls aged six and above have never attended school. About 33 per cent completed seven years of schooling or less; 13 per cent completed eight or nine years of schooling.

The number of girls attending secondary school is even lower. Girls in the lowest wealth quintile have completed a median of 0 years of schooling, compared with a median of 9.1 years for those in the highest wealth quintile.

Gender bias

The survey reveals that girls show more interest in schooling and record fewer failures compared to boys. But the inherent gender bias in society prevents them from attending classes.

Girls outnumber boys when it comes to not attending school only because the parents feel education is not necessary, and that they are required for household chores.

The survey further shows that families that find education too costly are more likely to pull girls out of school.

Published on July 25, 2019
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