More Attention on Girls’ Education Crucial in Nation Building
Plato in his immortal work ‘The Republic’ says that State is primarily an educational Institution. According to him, if the State neglects education, it matters little what else it does.
Besides Plato, the French philosopher Rousseau assigned to education a place of utmost importance in making an individual a good citizen and a good member of the human society. Therefore, the importance of education can hardly be over-emphasized.
In today’s scenario education is the most important instrument for social and economic transformation. The development of a country depends on its growth of education in society because education is one and only tool which helps to create skilled, responsible and resourceful citizens. In the development of any country, elementary education helps to create the foundation while higher education helps to make human intelligence, decision-making efficiency, planning, management skills and power of imagination, etc. The all-round development of a country depends upon harnessing the skills and abilities of all sections of society with no prejudice to caste, class, color, creed and of course sex.
India is a country with diversities comprising various ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious groups. The development of education varies among these groups. The Constitution of India aims to bridge these gaps by empowering the society and providing equality of status among all its citizens. In the Indian Constitution all the citizens have been given equal rights. For its successful implementation, several education policies have been declared by the government to provide equal educational opportunities with firm determination for provision of free, compulsory and universal education to all the children aged between 6 and 14 without any discrimination of religion, color and sex.
But the present picture is different. According to 2011 census report, women comprise 48.2% of the total population, but they have had limited access to higher education. However, literacy among girls and women has always been low and particularly, in case of minority girls, this percentage has been very low. The participation of minority girls in schools was also very low. The educational backwardness of girls is a matter of particular concern, especially the high drop-out rate, resulting in fewer numbers of them managing to complete high school, and even less, availing higher education.
According to 2011 census data, literate proportions of the population differ for men and women in each of the communities. As seen in the chart, among all the communities in India, female illiterates comprise the largest group-
It becomes clear from the mentioned data that among all the minority communities, percentage of women illiterates from the Muslim community is the highest in India, followed by Hindus and Sikhs. It also becomes evident that as compared to male illiterates from all the communities, percentage of female illiterates is high. This means women in every community are lagging behind in the free access of education.
As per a 2013 survey conducted by EdCIL (India) Limited, Ministry of Human Resource Development, school drop-out rates among Muslims are among the highest in the country and this drop-out is mostly at the primary level. The Sachchar Committee Report on Status of Minorities in India (2005) also points to low education outcome among Muslims due to reasons such as poverty, low perceived return from education, poor access to schools etc.
A study conducted by Professor Kanta Ahuja, (the Vice-Chancellor of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati University in Ajmer, Rajasthan), stated that “girls were being kept out of school because their parents did not appreciate the importance and value of education. The condition of the school and the quality of education, especially in the government schools in the rural areas, were other bottlenecks in attracting children towards school”.
National Health and Family Survey 2015-16 shows that more than one in four young women aged 20-24 were married in childhood (below age 18).
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018) by NGO Pratham shows that about 4.1% of girls in India are out of schools in the age group of 11-14, but this percentage goes up considerably (13.5%) for the age group 15-16 years. According to a report, around 8-10% women in the age group of 20-14 were married before they turned 18 in Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. This percentage is higher (35-40%) in Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal. These reports show that the teenage girls clearly become the most vulnerable as they are deprived of education.
Some social factors of low illiteracy of minority women
• Migration for work in seasonal periods;
• Early marriages as per their social custom;
• Girl children are not allowed to go outside the house and village because it is a social taboo;
• Parents go to their workplaces and household activities are undertaken by the young female children;
• Caring of younger ones at home;
• Gender disparity at home, in society and earlier marriages in this region;
• Sharing of family responsibilities after the death of elders in the family;
• In rural areas schools are located at long distances from home;
• Economic factors like because of poverty, girls are generally sent to work with landlords or to nearby cities;
• General feeling among people living on or below the poverty line that it is difficult, and not useful, to spend money for children’s education.
The main thing is that it is not the condition currently prevailing only. Historically, women in general have not enjoyed privileges, even in the Vedic period. Later on, the situation further degenerated during the post-Mahabharata and then in the Mughal periods.
After Independence, the government tried to build some provision in the Constitution to give women equal rights and status with men, but in practice little has been achieved.
After hectic efforts, 33% percent of women reservation was passed. The Act to provide one-third seats in Parliament and the Assemblies has not come into effect even today.
Positively, the Government has taken various steps to improve socio-economic and educational status of women throughout the country with the objectives of enhancing opportunities for girls’ education and ensuring equitable share of girls in economic activities and employment. Some of the notified steps by the government of India in this regard are Prime Minister Modi’s New 15-point Programme for minorities, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), National Program for Education of Girls at Elementary Education (NPEGEL), Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) Scheme, Right to Education (RTE) Act, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs), Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF), Naya Savera, Padho Pardesh, Nai Udaan.
Despite having all these progressive schemes, the women from all the communities in India are being deprived from the race for literacy.
Various laws, programmes, policies and schemes are being made by the government of India to protect the educational rights of the minorities at different levels of their education. But more special attention has to be given by the government of India to provide free education to women from all communities in India.
The reason for this low performance of girls is not only economic. There exists a gap between the real problem and the steps taken by the government. Various social and psychological factors and reasons are also there that determine the less participation of women in education from the all communities in India.
Initially, at the very grassroots level the conservative thinking of the parents and families should be reformed, which is the main driving cause of low participation of women in education in India. Along with the formulation of various free educational and scholarship schemes, effort should be given to make awareness among the parents and families, particularly at the rural level, to educate their girl child because, in a Country like India free and compulsory education is of no value without the eradication of prevailing social evils.
In this context, the words of Swami Vivekananda can righty be mentioned, when he said, “Women must be educated, for it is the women who mould the next generation and hence the destiny of the country.”
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.)
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