India needs game-changing policies and effective enforcement to ensure continuous girl child education

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11th October 2017: International Girl Child Day

New Delhi, 11th October 2017: This year the theme for International Girl Child Day (11th October 2017) is ‘EmPOWER girls: Emergency response and resilience planning.

According to UNICEF, 75 million children are out of school in the world today due to emergencies. This year during the 2017 floods in India, 12.33 million children have been affected and 15,455 schools have been damaged, disrupting the education of nearly a million children. Girls are particularly vulnerable since they are already burdened by poverty, poor access to quality education and gender bias. Globally, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys in countries affected by conflict.

This lack of access to education for girls is doubly unfortunate since education plays a particularly critical role in emergencies. It makes people less vulnerable to natural disasters. Education can provide girls with the necessary skills to cope with what had happened and to contribute to their communities’ recovery. Research examining mortality during disasters has shown that countries with higher levels of education, especially among women and girls, experience lower mortality during and following disasters.

Organizations like CARE India have facilitated and adopted some path breaking initiatives to empower the girl child by providing technical support, integrative strategies and interactive modules. These enable girls from marginalized communities to understand the dire need for education and deliver sustainable long-term educational programs:

A Rights Based Approach:
This creates a space for stakeholders to implement the Right to Education via specifically designed programs and build a stimulating and healthy environment for all children, especially girls from marginalized communities. The focus is to overcome social, cultural, pedagogical and systemic barriers to girls’ education. A rights-based approach facilitates a stakeholder’s ability to build, promote and inculcate positive attitudes in communities and institutions as they congregate to form long term objective specific educational programs.

Adopting a facilitative role:
At times, organizations ideate effective strategies to create sustainable education programs but lack the necessary direction and resources. Here, collaboration can enable facilitation and execution via transformative change processes primarily within existing frameworks.

Developing state specific plans:
Every Indian state has a distinctive identity based on composition of caste, gender, religion, class among others, that is firmly rooted in its region’s history. Such inter-state variations demand situation analyses for effective implementation of education programs. Different plans need to be based on assessment of each identified aspect of project implementation.
Working through Alliances, Coalitions and Partnerships:
Organizations working in tandem towards a common goal have a collective voice that strategically influences policy changes. Their play a critical role in advocacy of children’s right to elementary education when information is disseminated to stakeholders through joint reviews, seminars and government evaluations.

Building upon CARE India’s previous project works and experiences:
Projects in process must be strengthened further continuously especially by adding new initiatives that supplement the existing ones. Established relationships with key stakeholders can be leveraged to improve existing projects and frameworks.

One example of how these strategies work effectively is that of Ms. Seema Parveen from Uttar Pradesh. Disillusioned by the way the government ran educational centres and rising levels of children’s disinterest/lack of awareness, she attended several cluster level teacher development meetings organised by CARE India. Hence, Seema was able to enhance her technical skills and create interesting classroom processes and strategies to engage the students. For instance, she established a classroom library to motivate children to read, and established a link between the children’s local context and local reference materials by creating a language based on poems, short stories, charts, pictures. She encouraged children to take on leadership roles and participate in activities within the class room. She allowed diversity in expression which freed the student’s minds and sparked their interest in school.

Educational programmes must be developed in consultation with the girls themselves for their empowerment. Teacher education is critical for this. The government needs a clear plan to ensure disaster preparedness of schools and communities and adequate resources’ allocation for the plan’s implementation. CARE India has been supporting the setting up of a South Asian Forum on Safe and Secure Education for girls.

Mr. Rajan Bahadur, CEO and MD, CARE India, said, “One of the most troublesome facets of girl child education is the phenomenally large dropout rate. At a primary level the dropout rate is an alarming 25%. 42% of children drop out in elementary school. Current estimates report that 176 million women continue to be illiterate. Access to school, safety in school, cultural constraints and gender bias are some of the biggest hurdles in ensuring girl child education. Our programs aim to make children take an interest in their own education. They facilitate and support children by providing them with the steps that need to be followed in order to get educated. These programs enable the children to help themselves and develop an identity that is closely linked with their work and future career prospects.”