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Why girls drop out of higher education

Usha Rai | Updated on September 07, 2019

It pays to learn Government schemes promote girls’ education but the awareness is low. - TANMOY BHADURI

A four-State study by CRY highlights the underlying causes and suggests some solutions

With great strides having been made in ensuring elementary education for girls, the new challenge is getting them into secondary and higher secondary school and making sure they don’t drop out.

A recent study, ‘Educating the Girl Child: Role of Incentivisation and other enablers and disablers’, done by CRY (Child Rights and You) gives important leads on checking dropouts and tells you what keeps parents from sending their daughters to school as they grow older.

It also tells you why girls themselves may be reluctant to go to school.

The study, across the four States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana, is based on 3,000 interviews in 1,604 households. Early marriage (66 per cent), household chores (65 per cent) and cost of education (62 per cent) were hindrances for girls’ education.

The underlying causes for early marriage were fear of elopement/love affair. Parents were also worried about the physical security of girls stepping out for higher education. Pre-determined gender roles and care of siblings often deterred parents from sending girls to school.

Hurdles in the way

Ninety per cent of the girls are dependent on someone to go to school. Frequent absenteeism of teacher and not having a female teacher keeps away 29 per cent of the girls from school. A whopping 52 per cent drop out because of frequent illness and 46 per cent said household chores discouraged them from going to school.

Poor roads and lack of transport facilities were also disincentives, particularly for girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. In Haryana, AP and Gujarat, menstruation appeared as an important reason for missing school. The CRY report points out that though 87 per cent of schools had toilets for girls, not all were found to have running water and hand-washing facilities.

Take the case of 15-year-old Seema, a class 10 student, and the youngest of three siblings who wanted to pursue higher studies.

Her parents, having spent all their resources on their elder son’s studies and elder daughter’s marriage, do not have any money left for her education. Despondent, the girl flees with a ‘friend’ and gets married. She dreams of a better life and also an opportunity to study further. The marital bliss lasts only for a couple of months and Seema finds herself slogging in the kitchen and physically tortured.

She then returns to her maternal home and pleads with her parents to enrol her in school. The parents are not cooperative.

The NGO is still talking to the parents, offering financial support to send her back to school.

However, in the case of Rohit from West Champaran, Bihar, a brilliant student, who was sent off to work in a zardozi hub in Gujarat to support the family after he cleared class 10, two NGOs came together to persuade his parents to change their mind. They pointed out the exploitative nature of child labour and how they were hindering the growth of a child who had got a first class in his 10th. So, after about four years of labour work, Rohit came back and did his intermediate in the arts. He was selected for the State police service and is training at the police academy in Bhagalpur.

Enabling environment helps

The study shows that an enabling environment, self-motivation or motivation by parents and community inspired 88 per cent of the girls to work towards their dreams of higher education and a career. Girls were also encouraged to pursue higher education because of various government schemes like the Mukhya Mantri Cycle Yojana and Beti bachao, beti padhao. Though there are 21 government schemes to incentivise girls’ education, 12 of them monetary, 40 per cent of parents in the four States were unaware of the schemes.

The study also reveals that many girls have not been able to avail the schemes due to delay in distribution of scheme benefits and other factors like stringent eligibility criteria and conditionalities, complex processes to avail the benefits, and mismatch of the scheme benefits with the requirements of girls and their families. Also, the analysis highlights that the majority of the girls who did not receive any benefit in the school were in the age bracket of 11-14 years and belonged to lower socio-economic strata.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

Published on September 07, 2019

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