Giving Girls a Chance
There has been a big push in India to ensure primary education for all children; but in the first five years, girls’ school attendance rates have fallen rapidly. Especially in labouring, tribal and dalit families where the parents are less likely to be literate.
Research by Action Village's, Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra (NBJK), in north India, shows that there are a number of reasons for this:
The number of government secondary schools has not increased to match population growth and the increasing numbers of students demanding a secondary education.
This shortage of government schools has led to an explosion in the number of private schools, but often poorer families cannot afford to pay the fees for both sons and daughters, so girls lose out.
There are primary schools in most villages, but secondary schools may be 8-10km away and public transport is poor in rural areas. This is not such a barrier for boys who can cycle to school, but families are reluctant to allow girls to travel so far unaccompanied.
Historically, rural families have not valued girls’ education: only 56% of women in Jharkhand are literate.
Women and girls play an important role within their families and communities, yet many are not given the opportunities they deserve. By helping girls realise their potential, we can start to improve the lives of whole communities.
According to UNICEF, over half of the girls in India do not attend secondary school; in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, this figure rises to over 80%. If parents can afford to pay for schooling, the boys get priority, whilst girls stay at home. Most girls are therefore barely able to read and write and many end up working for low wages, and having very few options in life.
NBJK selects girls from the poorest families in the communities, often single parents or orphaned children. NBJKs overall aim is to help end the cycle of illiteracy and poverty in families.
In many cases these girls are the first generation of literate women. All parents and carers sign an agreement stating they will not arrange their daughter’s marriage before they complete secondary school. Girls are supported to go to the nearest school, these in some cases maybe private schools, or government schools, in which case the girls receive extra tuition.
By providing girls with the chance to complete secondary education they:
- Become more confident, have more life choices and an opportunity to continue with further or vocational training. This additional training allows them to gain new skills such as carpentry, sewing and IT. They are also more likely to get better paid jobs, which will increase the income of their future households.
- Protected from child labour and early forced marriage, as well as economic and sexual exploitation.
- Provide social benefits to the whole community. Secondary education equips students with critical thinking, enabling participation at local level and in support of democratic change.
- Are more likely to have smaller healthier families and send their own children, including daughters, to school because they recognise the value of an education.
- Can support poverty alleviation. The completion of primary and secondary education produces high returns in terms of wage growth. According to the World Bank, increasing girls’ completion rates at secondary level can boost annual per capita income by an average of 0.3%.
This project brings hope and a future to vulnerable young girls, many of whom have not been able to complete or start school.
AVI provides an annual grant of £31 per annum for each girl, for five years. This covers the cost of the school fees, books and uniforms.
NBJK discovered Arpana and chose to sponsor her to complete her education.
Arpana, who is 13, says she never thought she’d have the chance to finish her schooling, so is very happy. She says she would like to study for as long as possible and once she leaves school she would like to get involved in social work.
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