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Gujarat tops in "out of school" girls at higher primary and secondary level schools, reveals authoritative study

By Rajiv Shah
This should be an eye-opener for those who have been architects of the Modi government’s much-publicised kanya kelavni show, meant to enroll higher percentage of children, especially girls, in schools, by sending the entire babudom to the rural areas of Gujarat. If details of the latest Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER), put out this January, are any indication, last year, whopping 30.1 per cent girls, in the age-group 15-16, failed to turn up in Gujarat’s rural schools, which was the highest in the country. The report qualifies 30.1 per cent girls as “out of school”, a term used to combine “dropped out” with “never enrolled” children. What is most disconcerting is that none of the 20 states surveyed show such poor performance. Even the so-called Bimaru states are better performers than Gujarat.
Though neighbouring Rajasthan and Odisha do not do well, they are still better than Gujarat with 29.8 per cent and 28.2 per cent, respectively. Jharkhand with 15.5 per cent, Chhattisgarh with 18.1 per cent, Uttar Pradesh with 26.5 per cent, Madhya Pradesh with 18.6 per cent and Bihar with 14.6 per cent perform much better than Gujarat in sending their girls to schools at the secondary level. The all-India average for “out of school” girls in this age-group is 17.9 per cent, much better than that of Gujarat. The best performing state, as before, remains Kerala, with just 0.7 per cent out of school girls, followed by Himachal Pradesh (3.8 per cent). The states which “compete” Gujarat in economic growth – Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Karnataka perform much better with 5.8 per cent, 8.5 per cent, 9.3 per cent, 17.4 per cent, 10.3 per cent and 11.2 per cent, respectively.
What is equally alarming is that, the gender gap between boys and girls in this age group is very high. As against 30.1 per cent girls qualify as “out of school”, as against 16.4 per cent boys, suggesting gender inequality. Sourindra Ghosh, a researcher, has pointed out in his recent paper, “An Analysis of State of Education in Gujarat”, published in the book, “Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat”, edited by Prof Atul Sood, “In Gujarat, male literacy rate stands at 84.5 per cent as compared to 64.8 per cent for females. The difference is thus of 20 percentage points, which is higher than the gap in literacy between male and female at the national level.”
Carried out by high-profile NGO Pratham, the survey’s findings suggest that while enrolment level remains high at the lower primary level (age 7-10), with just about 1.2 per cent identified as “not in school” girls, it shoots up at the higher primary level primary level (age 11-14) with 7.1 per cent girls as “out of school.” Here also, the gap between boys and girls attending school is quite wide. As against 7.1 out of school girls, there are 4.2 per cent out of school boys. In fact, even at the upper primary level, Gujarat’s performance is found to be worse than most states, except two. These are – 11.5 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Rajasthan with 11.5 per cent. The national average is 6 per cent.
The ASER report, interestingly, makes no observation to suggest as to why Gujarat’s performance in enrolling the girl child has been so poor, despite high claims of the powers-that-be. Interestingly, however, this is not the only figure which suggests neglect of the girl child remains in Gujarat high and kanya kelavni has made little or no impact. The state government, in a report submitted to the Government of India, had stated that 99.7 per cent of primary schools in Gujarat have toilets for girls. However, there is reason to doubt such a high claim. The survey found that as many as 11.3 per cent of the toilets for girls were locked, and another 11.3 per cent were not usable. Only 64.8 per cent of the toilets were usable.
There are clear indications that things have not changed over the last six years. A recent report, “Gendering Human Development Indices: Recasting GDI and GEM for India”, basing on 2006 data, found that in the age-group 5-14, the percentage of girls attending school was 85.6 per cent, and Gujarat ranked 12th among 20 major states. The report added, the percentage of those attending schools in the age-group 15-16 was 36.5 per cent, ranking Gujarat 18th. If the Pratham report is any indication, while overall performance of Gujarat may have improved, other states had performed better. Vis-à-vis India, Gujarat’s performance has, in fact, deteriorated.
Writing on the same issue, Ghosh’s paper observes, while focusing on the school going age of 6-14 years, “Gender gap in Gujarat is higher, both in absolute terms as well as relative to other states/ all-India level, in the 11-14 year age group (above primary education age group) than in 6-10 year age group (primary education age group). For 6-10 year age group, it is higher than (many) states. In both the age groups, gender gap is higher in Gujarat than the national average.”

Also see: Gujarat’s state-sponsored Kanya Kelavni melas fail to improve enrollment or quality of education



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