Beti Padhao-Beti Bachao (save the daughter, educate the daughter) is a campaign of the Indian Government that intends to create awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services planned for girls in India. Launched by the Prime Minister in January 2015, this campaign has today reached the remotest parts of the country where the slogans promoting the campaign are colourfully painted on the village walls. However, the only thing that is missing from the campaign is the implementation of the message into reality.
In the last few decades, both State and Central Governments have taken several steps in the direction of filling the gaps that exist in our education system which, undoubtedly, have shown results. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Right to Education), changed the education scenario as its implementation resulted in an increase in enrollment in primary schools across states. Besides, there is a steady decline in the number of children not going to school. However, as a country, it is about time we intensify our social and economic commitment towards strengthening the fabric of India’s education system.
In our country, where education is a basic right, of an initial enrolment of 100 students, on average, only 70 can finish school. As per data collated by the District Information System for Education (DISE), while the number of students in the elementary education level is high (94), many drop out during the secondary level (with 75 left). As per a survey conducted for the year 2017-18, India is home to 313 million illiterate people; 59% of them, not surprisingly, are women. Especially in villages, girls have to struggle hard to get admitted to schools which marks only the beginning of endless battles they have to fight to attain education. The regressive environment in the village and family’s outlook towards education hinders their aspirations. Even in school, the lack of basic infrastructure becomes one of the major reasons for them to discontinue studying.
Nearly one-third of government schools lack sanitation facilities due to which adolescent girls have to drop-out. Once they are at home, they help in the household chores for some time and then are forced to get married at an early age. According to several reports, more than 22 lakh girls are married at a very young age. This jeopardizes their reproductive and health rights.
Another loophole in our education infrastructure is the lack of teachers in schools. According to a report published by India Today in 2019, government schools in the national capital Delhi have only 35,034 regular teachers against a sanctioned strength of 64,096. If we talk about other states, the situation isn’t good either. A Forbes report suggests that in Jammu & Kashmir, 78% of teacher positions at government schools lie vacant while in Bihar just 35% are unfilled. In India, for every 24 children, we have just 1 teacher. Public schools are also facing the dearth of trained teachers. As per a survey conducted by a child rights non-profit organization, there is a shortage of more than five lakh teachers in elementary schools.
Crossing these hurdles, many girls manage to attain education till the upper primary level but due to lack of secondary and senior secondary schools in their respective villages, they are forced to quit education. Parents who are reluctant to send their boys to schools located in different villages are completely against the idea of allowing their daughters to travel several kilometres for studies. For India to become a superpower, it must strengthen the state of education, especially for the girls struggling endlessly in the rural and remote regions of the nation!
This article has been written by Amit Garg for Charkha Features under the Sanjoy Ghose Media Fellowship 2019.