NEW DELHI, India — India boasts one of the highest populations in the world with over a billion people in the nation. It has the potential to become the most populated by 2050. Since women make up almost half the population, girls’ education should be key in the country’s future. However, India still struggles with keeping girls in school. India’s dropout rates for girls are as high as 57% by high school. A matter of this magnitude is stalling the country’s progress in working to become a fully developed nation.
Education should be a right for children of all ages, regardless of gender or class system. In fact, in 2009, India passed the Right to Education Act. This act acknowledges the importance of education by making it mandatory and free for all children between the ages of six and 14. This is a great achievement as the country has seen a significant increase in girls in schools. As of 2018, the rate of girls from 11-14 not in school had dropped from 10% in 2006 to 4%. More women than ever were enrolling in secondary school and even college. However, India’s dropout rates for girls remains high.
Reasons Girls Are Dropping Out
One of the main reasons why is due to responsibilities of housework. Due to parents and even older siblings working, the household chores often fall solely on the daughters. In 2019, 40% of girls ages 15-18-year-olds had dropped out of school, usually to help with housework. Even if a girl does complete her education and gets a full-time job, there is still a high expectation that she will do the majority of the housework.
Furthermore, schools all over India face a variety of challenges when dealing with menstruation as well. Whether due to a lack of resources, proper health education or common taboos about being “unclean” during menstruation, millions of girls drop out of school or start taking extended periods of absence around middle school due to their menstruation cycles. According to a survey in 2018, as many as 80% of teachers still believe in menstrual taboos.
Keeping Girls in School
Though India’s dropout rates aren’t disappearing overnight, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting. A combination of the government and community leaders and organizations are working hard to make a difference in schools. They are trying to educate others and keep an open mind. The government created a new draft of its National Education Policy (NEP) in June 2020 to focus more on girls’ education and find solutions to dissolve gender stereotypes of women needing to do the housework. It had released the previous NEP in 1992.
Additionally, schools are pairing up with UNICEF to hold classes about menstrual education and hygiene, hoping for a healthier mindset and learning safer ways of taking care of themselves. Both students and teachers attend these classes.
In the past few years, movements have been increasing overall awareness of these issues, and non-profit organizations are active in making a difference. Organizations such as the Prerna Girls School, a school providing a low-cost education for girls in low-income families. More than 5,000 girls have attended the Prerna Girls school since it opened in 2003. The organization also helps to empower young girls to combat discrimination and oppression.
Even though it’s a long steep road to bring the education industry’s standards up with the rest of the world, India could have so much to gain by helping women continue their education and providing quality jobs for them. A 10% increase in women into the workforce could bring India more than $700 billion to the country’s GDP by 2025. Even though it still has a ways to go, India continues to make progress.
– Mary Seymour