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From the ashes the fire shall be woken

Angles awaiting better future

I am very fortunate to have parents, for whom I am not a liability, a burden, but their heartbeat, with equal opportunities as my brother. Going through immeasurable hardship they bestowed upon me the finest education available. I am privileged to have parents who understood the importance of education, believed knowledge and wisdom gained through education, to be the milk of a tigress, a key determinant to fight discrimination. Unlike me, all the girls, are not so blessed. The tale, of the girls, dwelling in the slums in the vicinity of my city, screams to be told.

It was hardly eight in the morning but this part of the city was vibrant, with Hindi movie songs blasting out of the small dingy huts, children with running noses happily bathing in dust, the aged puffing at beedi, young males busy playing the game of dice, suddenly, letting out a huge roar. Adolescent girls and women were cooking, cleaning, washing or rushing past to be on time for their work, as a domestic helper. I was standing in front of a slum having 1246 population. In the backdrop of the rising sun, this slum juxtaposed bleak images of endless trouble, crushing miseries and acute poverty. In spite of the government’s initiative, to a slum dweller, “Education is a luxury”.

Indian Government has introduced Right to education Act from April 1, 2010 which guarantees compulsory and free elementary education to all. Since then an average annual dropout rate has lowered from 9.1 in 2009-10 to 6.9 in 2010-11 (DNA news, April 1, 2012). Still, the girl dropout rate is comparatively high, according to 8th All India Education Survey.

A slum, I frequent, as a part of an awareness program, denotes the same figures, which are alarming. 98% of adolescent and adult slum dwellers left school before completing High School. Of these 64% are female. The figures are bewildering. The problem in my city is huge, considering, there are approximately 80 such slums in the proximity. The reason, for girl dropout in rural and urban slum is the same, widely echoed in every corner of India.
Financial constrain is the significant reason for school dropout. Even though, elementary education is free, to combat hunger, children end up as child laborers. Deepali, an 18 year girl, eager to resume her studies, left school when she was in 7th grade, hardly 13 years old. After her mother’s death, she took over the role of her mother, working as a domestic helper and looking after her younger siblings.

Girls are the hard hit, as their cultural status, deems them secondary. Her education is of less importance in parallel to her male siblings. In financial crises, parents choose their son’s education instead of their daughter’s. Sometimes she goes missing from school, to perform an assigned obligation as a babysitter, or to fetch water from distance, when her parents are off working as laborers. Early marriage is also one of the common reasons.

Quality of schooling too is one of the factors responsible for dropouts. Poor infrastructure, lack of school in vicinity, lack of separate toilet for girls and indifferent teacher creates disinterest among the children, contributing to the dropout problem.

Father’s alcoholism, too deprives a child of school, as the scarce finance is diverted to alcohol. Apathy and lack of parent awareness towards education is also a prime cause of dropout.

The onus to tackle the girl dropout lies with the Government as well as in the society’s initiative.
~Mandatory provision for the proactive participation of the responsible members of the society in the school functioning should be geared up, to ensure healthy teaching environment and to pressurize education department for adequacy of infrastructural facilities.

~After school remedial coaching can foment interest in children, thus reducing dropout rate.

~More NGOs and state need to take up awareness and bridging program facilitating the dropout children (13-17 years age) to resume their studies and students above 18 should be enrolled for vocational training.

~Parent awareness is the key to lessen girl dropout. An enlightened parent severs as a catalyst of change in their daughter’s life. Sangita, is one such mother, wakening fire from ashes. To help feed her family, Sangita, at the age of 13, became a domestic worker and even after marriage, continuous to be one. She is violently abused by her drunkard husband. “I don’t want my daughter to end up like me” says young Sangita. She puts in extra efforts, saving some bucks, to educate her daughter, who is enrolled in a private school. “I will ensure” says Sangita, giving a longing look, at the books neatly stacked in a corner on a small rack, “my daughter gets the best education”. I asked, her daughter, her name. Peeping from behind her mother, a girl with shimmering eyes replied, “Jyoti” (means light).

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Deepali eager to resume education



pelamutunzi's picture


hope is in education for the people in slums but there are many factors at play that need to be resolved before the solutions put forward by government can work. first and foremost is unemployment then poverty can be eradicated and only then can retention rates in schools increase. as long as these problems are there children will still not go to school. accommodation is also important to create a conjusive environment to maintain the children's interest.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

bhavna's picture


Dear Pelanmutunzi, thank you for visiting and giving your valuable feedback. Sure, the problems faced by the slums are multifaceted, which needs to be addressed to creat a condusive enviornment for children, the future of the globe. We cannot just let the valuable human resource be wasted. Every child is valuavle and deserve a better future.
Thank you once again.

Aminah's picture

“Education is a luxury” :(

Education never should be a luxury. It is a basic necessity.

Thank you Bhavna for your empathy. As you say you have been lucky enough to have great parents who value education. And you are an inspiration to your community. Continue to show your support and do everything that is possible to make changes to the slum dwellers.



bhavna's picture


Dear Aminah, I cant agree more! Education is the fundamental need, not a luxury, though it seems like when you visit these slums and I wonder for what fault are they away from this basic necessity... why is their childhood being trampled under the heavy weight of responsibility! The innocent children who have the right to be carefree are encumbered with debts and impede their development. Believe me the picture is very bleak. Hope it changes for better.
Thank you for your feedback dear.


Iryna's picture


Dear bhavna,
your description is so vivid! And you touch so important issue. This is not an easy choice for a girl: to continue study or go an help to your family. 9 form 10 will choose the second one, for sure. This fact by itself already shows the biggest problem when girls need to make this choice! Certanly, they deserve better future.

Thank you for your story,
Warmest greetings,

bhavna's picture


Thank you Iryna. It is indeed a biggest problem with women left with no choice but to choose the second option.

Binti Kamau's picture


I really admire your parents for supporting you are through. Their supporting words and encouragement make children go a long way. My parents too have been supportive...big ups to our parents!!!
And we can support those unfortunate children without parents...and make them have what we got from our parents.

No Retreat, No Surrender

bhavna's picture


Yup cheers to that dear, parents are the biggest blessings. Sure we can bring in change in the life of some unfortunate if not all.

Binti Kamau's picture


We ought to be grateful for the gift of parents and share the love with those who don't have parents....


No Retreat, No Surrender

sallysmithr's picture

Thank you

Thank you so much for sharing. You provided a very detailed picture of what things are like within your community. That is so great that your parents really supported you and treated you and your brother as equals. It sounds like you have many great ideas to help with the issues that you raised and that is fantastic that you are part of an awareness program. It appears that there are many obstacles to tackle but you have such a positive vision that I'm sure provides a lot of support to those that are in need. I wish you the very best in all you do.


bhavna's picture


Thank you dear Sally. I am fortunate dear to have wonderful parents who support me even today. Thank you for the encouragement, wish to do more.

kirantara's picture

Dear Bhavna I really enjoyed

Dear Bhavna

I really enjoyed the mix of narrative and journalistic writing here - it made your point really come to light. Keep it up!!


Pushpa Achanta's picture

Essential story

Dear Bhavna,

I'm grateful that you've written meaningfully about a painful fact that we Indians see throughout our lives. We must continue doing everything possible to alter this situation.


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