India's attitude towards girls’ education must change


Staff member
Mumbai: A survey in the slums of five metros has revealed that the attitudes of families and a low level of awareness are major factors in the high rate of school drop outs among girls.

The study conducted by Child Rights and You (CRY) among people from economically backward groups in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore indicated that marriage is a barrier to education, with more than 50 per cent of the respondents saying they knew schoolgirls who had got married in their area and 48 per cent accepting that they would not be allowed to study after marriage. In Mumbai, 86 per cent felt that girls should get married between 16-18 years compared to 41.4 per cent in the other cities.

Education was never given a high priority, the survey found, especially for girls, who often have to take care of younger siblings and do household work as well as support their families financially. It was also revealed that parents do not send their daughters to school as they fear for their safety and think they would become spoiled if they received an education. Poverty, more children in the family, no school close to home and a preference for boys were some of the other obstacles that stand in the way of girls getting an education.

More surprisingly, one out of four respondents in the survey, which was conducted in 500 households, felt that a person under the age of 18 is not necessarily a child, especially if he or she is tall, can take care of children, do household chores and work and earn. In Mumbai, this was the opinion of 78 per cent of the respondents.

Dropping out of school is another major concern, with 40 per cent of respondents across five cities saying they were aware of more girls being out of school than boys in their areas.

In spite of the government launching the Right to Education Act 2009 with a great deal of fanfare, 50 per cent of respondents and 36 per cent in Mumbai were unaware that education as the right of every child aged 6-14.

Puja Marwaha, CEO of CRY, said the study not only analysed the everyday realities but also the policies that impact girls. “The report on girls’ education clearly brings out an urgent need to address the issue at all levels,” she said. “While we have made rapid strides in universalisation of primary education over the last two decades, there are still significant gaps, especially at the level of secondary education.

“The findings of the survey reinforce the fact that the attitude of people towards girls’ education is one of the major barriers. It is clear that there is a need for a large-scale attitude change.”