“When you educate a man, you educate an individual and when you educate a woman, you educate an entire family.”
This declaration is multi faceted—an educated woman has the self confidence, skills as well as intelligence to understand the need to be a better daughter, sister, wife and mother and make a progressive family. Education is the only tool with which a girl or a woman can empower herself and eventually her family.
India holds a strong determination in educating all children, especially the girl child. By declaring education as a fundamental right, India ensures constitutional provisions for providing free and compulsory education to all the children between 6 to 14 years of age. This provision is widely known as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Even after declaring education as a fundamental right, there are numerous hurdles that prohibit a girl child from actually getting an education. The biggest hurdle is the prejudices that families have about girls—like girls are slow learners, they are not rational; they are to be confined inside the domestic household, so why bother educating them.
Only a handful of people have actually realized the importance of educating a girl. Though not a direct cause, the infamous dowry system is also another barrier in girl child education. Families often think of a girl as a burden and often want to save the money for their dowry rather than spending it on her education.
A girl is no less than a boy; if anything, they are all the more diligent, hardworking and consistent in their effort towards anything. A girl should be educated in order to ensure a better life for herself. If she is empowered she would be in a condition to add on the income of the family, and raising the living condition of her family.
As goes the saying from the Rig Veda, “the home has, verily, its foundation in the wife.” An educated mother can give better care to her children. Since she is the first teacher of the child, she is ought to be well versed to inculcate better value system in the child. An ignorant mother would not understand the idea of proper hygiene and sanitation leading to lack of proper care of the child—malnourishment is a living example of this problem.
The government of India has initiated various programs and policies to ensure that a girl does not miss out any opportunity of getting education. After independence, the government had set up a National Committee on Women’s Education in 1958, and it recommended that female education should be at par with male education. In the year 1964, the Education Commission was set up, which largely talked about focusing on educating the girl child. The government came up with ‘New Education Policy’ in the year 1968, which focused on the overall education at both rural and urban areas.
‘Mahila Samakhya Program’ is a program that comes under the New Education Policy and was formed in the year 1988. This particular program focuses on the empowerment of the women who belong to the marginalized group.
National Program for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL) was started in 2003 to ensure access to education to girls who could not benefit from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Under this scheme model schools have been set up and it covers 24 states.
Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme was launched in 2004 in order to provide primary level education to girls. The scheme was especially designed for the underprivileged girls in the rural areas.
Even after so many programs and policies of the government, we are still lagging behind in providing education to the girl child. The problem here is not in implementation but in the level of commitment of people in general.
Until we create awareness amongst people about the benefits of women education, all these programs would not bring about the desired result. We fail to understand that men and women are two sides of the same coin—a girl is as much a part of the society as is a boy. They are both the futures of tomorrow. They both need to be given equal opportunities for the wholesome growth of the nation. Let us give the girl child a chance to show her capabilities.