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As Gujarat's child education drive ends, Unicef tells story of village girl walking 2.5 km to school

Manisha walking to her school
By Our Representative
To mark Gujarat’s 13th round of Kanya Kelavni (June 11-13) annual child education enrolment fete, Unicef India has preferred to tell the story of 14-year-old Manisha of village Garol in the tribal district of Chhoudepur, Gujarat on a social network site. Her story has been singled out because as she remains “the only girl walking the 2.5 km distance to school every day”, says a photo feature by Unicef.
The photo feature is significant against the backdrop of the fact that in the age-group 11-14, Gujarat's 7.6 per cent of girls were found to be “not in school” as against the all-India average of 4.4 per cent (click HERE to read). Further, in the age group 15-16, a whopping 30.2 per cent of girls were “not in school” as against the all-India average of nearly half as much, 17.3 per cent.
Father of Manisha is keen to educate her
“Not in school”, according to an elite NGO Pratham, working for right to education in India, includes those children who have never enrolled themselves in schools plus those who have been dropped out.
Unicef introduces Manishaben Rameshbhai Bariya as one of the five daughters of Ramesh Vallubhai Bariya, 45, living in Garol village of Chotaudaipur district. “Even though two of her elder sisters married young, Manisha's father has always been keen that all his daughters get an education”, the photo feature says.
Manisha with her sisters, who were married young
“After completing primary school, Manisha was supposed to go to another school to continue with her secondary education. However, this school was 2.5 km from her house, so she had to drop out, as both she and her father were a little apprehensive about her walking the distance alone. Manisha spent the next six months taking the goats out to graze and helping her mother out with household work”, the photo feature further reads.
Meanwhile, it says, Kishore Sharma, a village volunteer, “found out about girls dropping out of school because of lack of transport – vehicular transport is only provided to children if the school is 3 km away.” He realized that in “Manisha’s case, both father and daughter were really keen on her going to school but were just a bit hesitant because of the long walk.”
Volnuteer Kishore Sharma, who helped Manisha to enroll
Kishore therefore decided to “take matters into his own hands and one day he drove Manisha and a few other girls who were facing this difficulty on his bike to meet the principal and got them enrolled in school”, the feature says.
“Kishore’s encouragement and intervention, and the talk with the principal gave Manisha and her father the push they required. Manisha was glad to have been enrolled in school again and has been going to secondary school regularly, for two years now. She is still a bit apprehensive about walking alone but values the importance of going to school”, the feature says.
Manisha would have almost become a goat herd
However, it regrets, “The other girls, who Kishore got enrolled at secondary school along with Manisha, dropped out of school one by one.” It especially underlines, “For the moment, Manisha continues to be the only girl walking the 2.5 km distance to school every day. She says she’s committed to studying for as long as it will be possible for her and her family.”
Wishing Manisha, who “likes mathematics”, all the best, the feature concludes by saying, “If Manisha is able to continue with her education, chances are she will not be married at an early age. It will also encourage her younger sisters, and perhaps even the other girls in the village, to go to school.”

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