World Health Day: ‘Enable all rural Indian girls to avail education, regardless of categories’

In states like Rajasthan, pre-matric scholarships are restricted to socially disadvantaged populations and sums vary across categories, which should not happen, say experts

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 06 April 2022
Girls on their way to school in Warangal, Telangana. Photo: Amit Shanker / CSE__

All girls in India’s rural areas should be encouraged to avail education rather than restricting financial incentives to those from select social categories such as social and caste backgrounds, experts have said on the eve of World Health Day 2022.

The expert comments came even as studies have highlighted how rural Indian girls drop out of school early as compared to boys because parents are not willing to invest in their education.

The attendance ratio of rural girls in Rajasthan at the age of 13 is up to 90, according to the 75th Round of the National Sample Survey in 2018. But it dwindles to about 20 by the age of 18 and keeps decreasing.

The dropout rate in Rajasthan was 2.9 per cent in primary classes, 1.5 per cent in class sixth to eighth and 12.3 per cent in class ninth and tenth, according to the United District Information System for Education Plus Report for 2019-20. More girls discontinued their studies than boys.

Ashish Mukherjee, project director (Udaan), IPE Global, a global consulting firm stated:

In rural Rajasthan for instance, investment in a daughter’s education is considered wasteful, since they are to be married off. Their schooling is usually disrupted due to financial or social pressures and early marriage seems to be the inevitable fate of these girls.

This, in turn, impacted the girls’ reproductive health and condemned them to a life devoid of economic opportunities and any semblance of personal growth.

“This World Health Day, it should be our collective endeavour to get more girls into our schools to ensure better health parameters for them,” he added.

One way to keep young girls in school is to remove the financial impediments in the way of their education and provide them with scholarships and incentives to continue their schooling.   

“Government pre-matric scholarship schemes have the potential to change this bleak scenario but if there is some amount of disparity in their dispensation, then we are losing out on the opportunity to help economically disadvantaged girls,” Mukherjee said.

He noted that while states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand provided scholarships equally across all social categories, in Rajasthan, pre-matric scholarships were restricted to socially disadvantaged populations and sums varied across categories. 

The combined scholarship schemes of the Government of India and the Government of Rajasthan, accord Rs 3000 per year to students in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) category while students in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category get Rs 1,000 annually.

Families in the OBC category who scrape together measly livelihoods, are not in a more empowered position than families that belong to SC and ST groups and hence every child should be helped regardless of these caste-centric yardsticks, say experts.

“To ensure that girls from all strata of society reach their full potential, let us please recognise with humanity, their potential rather than focusing on their castes and sub-castes. We need a streamlined education policy that does not disempower anyone so that all children and especially young girls can study without any economic constraint holding them back,” Mukherjee said.

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