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It’s not just parents’ attitudes which are obstacles in the way of a girl’s education

July 22, 2008

Recent NSSO statistics National Sample Survey Organisation say that about 15 percent girls never attend school as compared to 11 percent boys. As the kids grow older, the gap between boys and girls widens.

Most of us know that important reasons for girls’ drop-out rates are because of the belief amongst parents that girls don’t need too much of an education and because their help is needed at home. Boys tend to drop out (later) because they are required to earn. However, other factors also influence learning…and these factors may be more important!

I found these very interesting charts which I wanted to share. These were in a paper by Vimala Ramachandran.

Parents are not demons!
This chart tells us that parents are not that vehemently opposed to a girls’ education as we often believe. Sure, just being a girl is an important enough reason to start off with a disadvantage, and factors like early marriage and domestic work are all negatives.

But the lack of a school in the vicinity is also a very important factor…and even more critical than this are three other factors…like a disabled sibling, being an older sibling and also her safety and security at school. Considering that girls even in urban India and that too in primary school are not safe from lecherous teachers, one can imagine the plight of a village girl. Eve-teasing at school and fear of kidnapping and sexual assault on the way to school is always present.

The lack of toilets for girls in many schools is another huge factor. Menstruating girls drop out.

So the most important reason why girls are not being educated is not because of parents’ reluctance…but because of lack of infrastructure and lack of moral behavior amongst some people, including teachers. Trafficking has reached huge proportions in India and village girls are most vulnerable.

Where boys are concerned, yes, the economic status of the family has a strong influence on whether a boy will get educated or not. But boys can contribute to the end of their education…by getting into bad company.

Here is a chart to remind us how hard poor children work – it is a comparison of what work children do in the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The red sign means that they always do the work, the blue means rarely and the green ? means sometimes and the black ? means almost never.

Hope for the future
Although there has been remarkable improvement literacy in India since Independence, and primary school enrollment has climbed significantly, only 35.6 per cent boys and 19.7 per cent girls complete middle school. A better infrastructure will go a long way in improving this percentage, at least for girls. Because it’s not just parents’ attitudes, it’s also the environment! Sure, girls are burdened with work, but that is only one reason why they drop out of school. The predators in our society are a great menace and need to be controlled and I think that this will take time to change, but a school nearby should help a little.

(The photo is copyrighted to me)

Related Reading: Laws to stop child marriage
Root cause of child labour
The life of street children
Street children – no rehabilitation program in place
The priviliged go to better schools

More: Growth and Development is not going hand in hand
Illiterate youth being left out of the economic boom

22 Comments leave one →
  1. batta420 permalink
    July 22, 2008 9:39 am

    In rural India all the above statistics are true. But I don’t think that will be the case in the urban areas. Both girls and boys atleast complete their primary education since there are loads of schools and primary education is also made free.
    As far as higher education ( after 10th) is considered, both girls and boys will have difficulty just to find a good college.
    My cousin came to Mangalore to live with us and go to college here since there was no college in her native place which had science in it as subject. Her sister who didn’t want to live away from her parents had to travel 1 and half hour to get to the nearest college which had science in it as subject.

  2. July 22, 2008 10:30 am

    i don’t think its true atleast in urban indian..
    India z changing fastly and urbanisation is the best thing that is going to happen.

  3. July 22, 2008 10:45 am

    Batta, kaushal, I am not talking of urban India. but of most of india, which is rural or semi-urban. In fact things like collecting firewood, water etc, is a peculiarly rural thing and so are distances from school, so I assumed it was clear. I think we need better school infrastructure in rural and semi-urban India. I am sorry if this was not clear from my post.

  4. July 22, 2008 11:24 am

    I got stuck at “more education (*of girl*) leads to greater demand for dowry”.

    Is that really so??

    I had not heard of this before either. As far as I know greedy people want dowry…money that it isn’t theirs, money that they haven’t earned. Its robbery as far as I am concerned, only sanctioned by society, although not by the law. And the dowry rate is determined by the type of boy. Isn’t always the sale price of anything determined by the kind of product? The buyers, in this case the girls’ families, are just buyers and a seller will sell to the highest bidder. I believe IAS officers from greedy families sell themselves for a very high price.
    But maybe they mean that a girl who is educated might be considered a liability…particularly if the boy is not educated. I am just guessing.

  5. July 22, 2008 12:04 pm

    Loved this post.And I do agree that parents are not always against daughters being provided education, they fel the girls are safer at home, and I have seen girls being made to give up school because of sexual harassment not only in the school but on the roads too…this post touched a chord. Do you mind if I link this to post of mine, on eve teasing/harassment on Indian streets and girls being blamed for it. If you do, just let me know, I will remove it.

    why should I mind? thanks for linking. – Nita.

  6. July 22, 2008 1:31 pm

    Intereting read, and the first chart is more interesting, like XYZ, I too was surprised by the point that more education means more dowry.

    I always thought educating people about dowry is a way to stop this social curse.

    Ofcourse, My getting into IT field and meeting lots of my south Indian friends, ridiclued my thinking as even this so called IT people still follow the dowry,and the amount invloved is always beyond my imagination..

    Not deviating from the topic and talking about girls education in rural India, yes I feel some thing needs to be done to get more number of schools,and teachers.

    I know you are not talking about primary education in URBAN India, but still I felt like mentioning that, in my home town(or city??) there are atleast 10 higher secondary schools(ALL PRIVATE), at walking distance from my home.

    Why there is so much difference between number of schools in rural and urban India?? I guess no one wants to go and open a school in rural areas.(Less or no profitabilty??) Why do we find only government schools in rural area?

    The government has strict restrictions on privatisation of school education and there are people wanting to change this, I think there are restrictions on profits etc. In any case the govt. has taken it upon itself to fill the gap…and they should. – nita.

  7. July 22, 2008 2:24 pm

    I think in urban India there is another form of discrimination like the girl is send to a government school (even when they can afford private schools) and the boy is send to the best school.
    Such attitudes are prevalent in Middle Class families.

    Atleast they are sending her to a school, but still there is a discrimination right?
    Thats realy sad.

    About the goverment schools, I have visited some of them back in Kerala. they dont have good toilets or playgrounds. In Kerala the literacy rate is high yet the some schools are in pretty bad condition. Cant imagine how the other states would be.

  8. July 22, 2008 6:09 pm

    I don’t think lecherous teachers are a big concern with rural people, though a school very far away is a concern. The problem is, with so many children, the parents tend to choose which one to educate, it is often the boy(s) who has the priority over the girl(s), and often the eldest boy, if it comes to choosing ONE.
    Also, there is a need for ‘working hands’ at home, the girls fill that role.
    Third, the parents are not demons, but they don’t exactly see any benefit of educating a girl, especially when they have to spend so much on her marriage anyway. They are not aware of how it may make her future more secure (it may even help her earn a decent living in case of the demise of her husband), how it may improve her quality of life and the health of her future family (female literacy rate is directly correlated to better health indicators like infant mortality rate, etc), etc. They don’t like th idea of her taking up a JOB (not decent or traditional enough an activity for a decent rural girl to aspire for), nor do they think she will be able to get a job. So for them it is often a meaningless pursuit.
    Population, poverty, infrastructure and lack of awareness, are all related to the girls being deprived of an education.

  9. July 22, 2008 6:51 pm

    I’m amazed that eve-teasing and harassment is such a big problem in India,
    in the roads, in school, in family,…thats very very sad to hear.
    I can understand why parents feel more secure keeping the girl at home…
    And…in schools are not girls-toilets? how is that? i cant understand
    why the indian girl have all this problems at their own country…
    It makes me feel really angry and sad, because i cant understand…
    If india one day can offer the same for girls and boys,
    the equality is for both,…then many things will change, for better!
    The situation of the woman must change !!!

  10. Ravi permalink
    July 22, 2008 8:24 pm


    I thought dowry is taken only in AP but considering the recent dowry deaths it seems to be a common practice all over India and I had to change my opinion. Dowry deaths are more in AP (i guess) like a higher caste guy demands more dowry irrespective of the girls qualifications. If the guy is an MS graduate and works in US then he demands even more money. Recently some dowry deaths are reported in US with in the Telugu community. Some girl parents are strictly against sending their daughter to US after marriage. It is the greed in the guy that makes him resort to dowry killings… I barely see the role of his parents.

  11. Ravi permalink
    July 22, 2008 8:29 pm

    If Indian Govt or any Private firm takes up the initiative to build and maintain public toilets (clean) then India has achieved 90% of the development as that of US. Its been awhile I left India and recently I was there and I found it very difficult to travel cause of the public restrooms even most of the gas stations didn’t have restrooms. Then how could any parent would sent their daughters to school that doesn’t provide clean toilets?

  12. July 22, 2008 9:28 pm

    Xylene, discrimination against girls takes all forms doesn’t it! I also know of such cases.

    Nomad, it has been proved that sexual assault, rape etc is more prevalent in rural India so why should molestation be less frequent? In fact molestation and rape is most frequent where victims are poor and not from influential families and there is the caste problem in villages.

    Francina, its sad isn’t it. But the discrimination is at different levels for different classes and as for toilets, there aren’t any toilets at all. In the sense the boys use the fields etc. In fact half of India has no toilets at all, which I have written about here.

    Ravi, I agree with you, toilets are a huge problem in India which if you read the link provided above you will get more information. And about dowry, its everywhere, all over India although less in some states.

  13. July 22, 2008 9:54 pm

    Interesting post. Its really sad to know that conditions like bad toilets and pervert teachers are causing so many girls to remain uneducated. I hope the campaign by TOI “Teach India” is more than just an PR gimmick.

  14. July 22, 2008 10:18 pm

    The Teach India thingie is only in the 4 metros, where its not needed as badly. But yeah, its a good idea. I have actually enrolled btw. 🙂 Dunno whether it will work out or not though. I have taught underpriviliged kids (1year organised program and 1 year at home) and I know I like doing it. In fact I had rung up an NGO near my place 6 months back and offered my services but inspite of me making several calls, they did not bother to get back to me. the programme I had been teaching in got wound up. Lets see if Teach India works out.

  15. July 22, 2008 11:16 pm

    Two ends of the world – India fights for basic education, Kids are interested and willing to learn.
    US fights to prevent drop outs, Kids prefer the work over education.
    Irony should I say?

  16. Ravi permalink
    July 22, 2008 11:21 pm

    Its not ironical cause in US a high school dropout can earn like $30000 a year. So if you consider the cost of education its expensive in US here and many kids are not willing to depend on their parents for car insurance, house rent and college tuition.

  17. minnesotameetskarnataka permalink
    July 22, 2008 11:24 pm

    The “Teach India” idea is great. Here in the States there is something similar. A lot of the former teachers are now publishing books to educate the U.S. public about the poor quality of some of America’s schools and advocating for change.

    I hope it works out and becomes more popular and effective!

    As an American, the dowry is confusing. I would have thought that since the girls and their families are paying for the husbands, the girls would have more power instead of the reverse.

    Maybe the dowry concerns go up because if the girl is educated, she would want an educated husband. Educated husbands expect higher dowries? Is that how it works?

  18. July 23, 2008 7:29 am

    A very good insight, Nita! Infact, if you ask me, this is the FIRST step that needs to be taken. We are in dire need of educating children, and girls especially. It is not possible to change the grown-ups. But it is possible to change the children, and if this is achieved, “tomorrow” looks bright for India- as it is these children who rule in the future.

  19. July 23, 2008 7:38 am

    Dinesh Babu, when it comes to basic education I guess everyone wants it!

    Ravi, true, in India parents finance their kids, at times forever! At least subsidize them.

    minnesotameetskarnataka, in the dowry taking families, girls who give more dowry do have more power. And true, educated husbands would want higher dowries. But will an educated husband want an equally educated wife? That is the million dollar question! She won’t be a puppet in his hands.

    Manoj, thanks.

  20. July 23, 2008 1:22 pm

    Nita, i just read your old post: Not toilets for half india?
    Its true, in my 2 trips to india, it was always a big trouble to find toiletts, and i’m not talking about clean toilets…many times, i could not even find a hole!
    And yes, it impressed me quite a lot to see many people doing their necessities in public!!
    Thanxs for the information!!!!

    welcome!! – Nita.

  21. July 23, 2008 6:40 pm

    well….good post.. .and i guess that table by ramachandran says it all ..
    Gone are thse days when parents use to feel that education is waste for a girl after all she is going tpo be in a new family .
    poverty played a major role.. but now even though fre education is given .. villages have less girls studying in those schools then boys..
    i just hope something changes..

    Thanks. Things are changing though, but far too slowly! – Nita.


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