Education and self-autonomy are still a distant dream for the majority of girls living in rural villages in India. In Jharkhand 45% of girls drop out of education after primary school (Class 5) and in some districts the figure alarmingly rises to 85%. Due to poverty, the responsibility of household duties placed on girls, living far away from schools, and the stigma of treating girls as Praya-Dhan (‘Others Property’), girls are less likely to continue their education than boys. Viewed as an economic burden, families do not value girls’ education, instead preferring to benefit economically through marrying them while still teenagers. Girls as young as 13-15 are forced to become wives, mothers, and daughters-in-law, losing their chance of education, employment opportunities and autonomy. In addition, the quality of education in local schools in villages is very poor, impacting on the academic results the girls need to access employment opportunities and achieve a better life. The project aims to break this vicious cycle of dependency and to raise awareness of the importance of girls’ education throughout communities. The project achieves this through:
— Barack Obama, former US President
The most disadvantaged girls and those more likely to drop out of school are identified by village self-help group members and by the project workers who liaise with local schoolteachers. The project enables girls to enrol in the best local schools whether run by the state, NGOs or private agencies, and have access to remedial centres to improve academic achievement where necessary. Advice is also given to parents about the importance of allowing their daughters time for studying at home, as well as encouraging their school attendance. In addition, parents guarantee against child marriage, by giving a bond on simple paper and commitment to support their daughters to complete their school education up until the end of the 10th class.
Kareena is 13 years old and lives in the Gurhet village of Hazaribag. Kareena’s father became really ill and passed away when the family was not able to afford the treatment he required. When Karina’s father died, her mother became the sole breadwinner for a family of 5. She is a Sahiya (Community level health worker) and earns only 2000/- rupee per month: 300/- for every birth delivered. Unfortunately, with this limited salary, Kareena’s mother could not afford the school admission fees for Kareena to be able to continue her studies, nor the extra tuitions needed for her to achieve the right grades to pass her exams.
Kareena’s life changed when one of the Coaching Centres from the NBJK’s Girls’ Education Programme opened in her village. Kareena came to know about the centre and she joined immediately. With the support of NBJK, Kareena re-started her studies, being admitted in the 8th class and she is now attending school regularly, while also receiving tuition through the Coaching Centre. ‘Earlier I used to waste my time and could not study well, but now with the tuition, I learn a lot of new things every day and I like to come here’ says Kareena, continuing: ‘I would have never been able to avail of the tuition sessions because of monthly fees for classes, but this coaching center is helping me a lot, I would like to complete my matriculation through this centre’.
Kareena is now confident she will secure the marks needed to continue her studies. She is still unsure what her career path will be, but she knows she is able to learn now and wants to complete her secondary education with good grades and change her life.