From the ashes the fire shall be woken
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).