The problems of girl child education – why are so many still out of school
Let’s start with a positive statistic – in 1995, when the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, China, the participants promised that they would take the required efforts to advance the rights of women and education for all girls, irrespective of their financial or social backgrounds would become a primary effort. Since that historic conference, 180 million more girls are now going to school and while this seems promising, we are still a long way from patting ourselves on our backs!
As per the latest Census of 2011, there are still about 32 million children who have not attended any type of educational institution. And then there is the disparity between male and female literacy – 82.16% to 65.46%. In rural areas, the numbers dip even further and all this is happening, despite the Indian Constitution recognising basic education as a fundamental right.
So, what is the problem – why are there still so many problems of girl child education? Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems that are still keeping girls out of school:
- Early marriage and pregnancy – As per a recent report, 27% of girls in India, are married before they reach the age of 18, and 7% are married before they reach the age of 15. The rate of child marriages is the highest in India, as compared to the rest of the world. Educating the girl child is considered unimportant because they are rarely considered breadwinners. And when they are married off at such a young age, pregnancy also tends to happen early, creating multiple health related issues too, because the girls are not aware of how to take care of themselves and their new born.
- Solution – The government of India has stated that the minimum age for marriage for girls is 18 and it is essential that the same be adhered to. In addition, there is an urgent need to educate young women to understand the need to plan a pregnancy and take proper care at that time. They need to be given the right information relating to pre and post-natal care, the importance of hygiene and proper nutrition.
- Poverty – Perhaps the biggest reason for girls not being able to go to school has to be a lack of financial resources at home – education is often not high on the priority list for families where finances are tight. For most poverty-stricken families, boys are the hope for the future, as they could be the breadwinners for the family, but girls will eventually be married and sent off. So, financial problems in girl child education are normally high on the list of factors preventing girls from going to school.
- Solution – While there is no immediate solution to poverty, education can definitely be made more accessible and that is something that has been done in countries like India. With schooling being made compulsory and free for children between the ages of 6 and 14, more and more children are now getting access to at least basic education. Initiatives like the Mid-day Meal Scheme are also helping in bringing and keeping children in schools. Moreover, organisations like Educate Girls are also playing their part by reaching out to girls who might have had to stop their education midway.
- Child labour – Even though it is not allowed legally, there are still children, as young as four and five, who are employed in some form or the other. You will see them working at tea stalls or small eateries or more commonly, as domestic helps. More often than not, once they get employed, they are unable to study or join a traditional school. Yet again, families who are underprivileged will choose to use whatever finances they have to educate the boys, rather than girls.
- Solution – Education needs to be mandatory, irrespective of gender and child labour needs to be banned completely, also irrespective of gender. In case, girls have been forced to drop out of schooling, there need to be avenues and opportunities for them to return. This is where NGOs like Educate Girls comes into play, because they are offering girls a chance to come back to the folds of education.
- Sanitation and menstrual problems – One of the main social problems of girl child education has to be the most basic one – several girls choose to drop out of school simply because they do not have access to a proper bathroom or at least basic privacy while relieving themselves. The problem increases when the girls start menstruating, because they might not have access to proper sanitary products or not even have the knowledge about how to handle the situation when it arises.
- Solution – Being in school is perhaps the first step towards getting the proper information – when girls go to school, they will have access to information regarding how menstruation happens and what needs to be done to maintain good health and hygiene. Moreover, several schools, are now providing free sanitary pads to girls, each month, offering an incentive to the girls to come to school regularly.
Organisations like Educate Girls are working tirelessly to not only bring education to rural areas, but also bring girl child education problems to the forefront! The volunteers work within communities to not only educate the locals about the benefits of educating a girl, but also to convert them into advocates for the cause. Our work is not limited to only families with daughters, but communities and villages as a whole and for this, we include teachers from existing schools and even members of the local government bodies. For us, one of the main foci remains to improve attendance and eventually the learning outcomes.
Since inception, we have been able to empower 1.1 million+ girls in several rural areas, in India, to receive education. Women and men from local villages are enrolled as volunteers, helping the message reach a larger audience.
If you too want to join the cause and help bring more girls into schools and give them not only an education, but also an opportunity for a better tomorrow, drop us a message today!
Posted on March 12, 2023