By Mujahid Nafees*
The constitution of India resolves to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and secure to all citizens fundamental rights. The principle of gender equality grants equality to women and empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women.
Primary education is the foundation on which the development of every citizen and the nation as a whole are built upon. In the recent past, India’s improved education system is often cited as one of the main contributors to the economic development of India. At the same time, the quality of elementary education in India has been a matter of major concern. Students of primary school should at least have the basic knowledge of reading, writing and simple mathematics equations which may be helpful in performing their daily activities.
In Gujarat, the state government started a campaign, Kanya Kelavni, in 2003. The main focus of this campaign has been to uplift the level of girls’ education.
The Government of Gujarat launched a programme called Gunotsav, or ‘Celebrating Quality’ in November 2009. Gunotsav is defined as an accountability framework for quality of primary education, which includes learning outcomes of children as well as co-scholastic activities, use of resources and community participation.
This programme was started by the state education department with the aim to evaluate primary education scenario and grade school teachers accordingly. The state government’s declared aim is to alleviate primary education at the grassroots level and initiate it with revolutionary experiments.
The Government of Gujarat has initiated a series of steps to improve the level of learning in its schools across the state and wishes to take these efforts forward, so as to achieve visible and measurable positive change. The government’s efforts claim to have succeeded in increasing school enrolments and bringing down school drop-out ratio, two major concerns in education field. The aim is to ensure that Gujarat should be among the top three states of the country in terms of student learning outcomes over the next five years.
The goals of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) include focus on the reduction of gender disparities in education, as reflected in lower enrolment, retention and achievement of girls, particularly those from socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Gujarat has adopted specific strategies to enhance girls’ access, enrolment and retention in schools.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the Government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory education to the children of 6-14 years age group a fundamental right.
The programme seeks to open new schools in those habitations which do not have schooling facilities and strengthen existing school infrastructure through provision of additional class rooms, toilets, drinking water, maintenance grant and school improvement grants.
Existing schools with inadequate teacher strength are provided with additional teachers, while the capacity of existing teachers is being strengthened by extensive training, grants for developing teaching-learning materials and strengthening of the academic support structure at a cluster, block and district level.
SSA seeks to provide quality elementary education, including life skills. SSA has a special focus on girl’s education and children with special needs. SSA also seeks to provide computer education to bridge the digital divide.
Reducing gender disparities in primary education
In Gujarat, it is felt that real empowerment of women is possible only through education. Mothers will have to be educated first and made aware of the importance of educating their daughters. In line with the basic emphasis on reduction of existing gender and social disparities in educational access, the Gujarat Council of Elementary Education (GCEE) is trying out diverse interventions to promote girls’ education under District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and SSA. Persistent efforts are claimed to have been made to motivate people in general and women in particular to send their children to school.
Despite these programmes, the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 shows a very disappointing data regarding Gujarat’s female population aged 6 years and above who ever attended school.
|Gujarat – Key Indicators||NFHS-4 (2015-16)||NFHS-3(2005-06)|
|Population and Household Profile||Urban||Rural||Total||Total|
|Population (female) age 6 years and above who ever attended school (%)||82.6||64.0||72.0||65.3|
In Gujarat, where Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 is a fundamental right, 28% female children are out of school. We also see inequality between urban and rural areas. The lowest percentage of school going girls is in Surendranagar (56.0 per cent). Second is Kutch with 57.8 per cent. Surendranagar has one of the highest percent of Dalit population in Gujarat