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India's 30% girls from poorest families have never set foot inside a classroom: RTE Forum

The fact-sheet being released on January 24
By Our Representative
A fact-sheet released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, a network of 10,000 civil society organizations across 19 states, has revealed that girls are twice less likely as boys to receive 4 years of schooling. It further said, 30% of girls from the poorest families have never set foot inside a classroom, and 40% of adolescent girls between ages 15-18 years are not attending any educational institution.
Also pointing out that literacy rate of women in India is still staggering at 65%, the fact-sheet suggested that a financial roadmap for implementation of the RTE Act and the National Education Policy should be worked out in order to address the "historic downturn" in spending on education.
According to the fact-sheet, the share of the union budget allocated to education fell from 4.14% in 2014-15 to 3.40% in 2019-20. Government spending on education has also decreased in real terms (adjusting for inflation), it added.
Estimated at at 2011-12 prices, the absolute allocations to school education have also decreased in real terms from Rs 38,600 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 37,100 crore in 2018-19, while education for higher education has increased from Rs 19,500 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 24,800 crore in 2018-19, the fact-sheet said.
Noting that "cess is an emergency and variable source of government funding meant to aid and cushion expenditure sourced from tax revenue/budgetary support", the fact-sheet regretted, "Since 2015, with the decline of budgetary support for education expenditure, cess has funded 70% of the total education expenditure."
The fact-sheet commented, "This means that the emergency cess has become a regular way of funding education rather than funding it wholly through the government budget. Cess can also be accessed by the union government alone, locking out state governments from accessing or scrutinising the spending of the fund."
"State spending on education is disproportionately high, against union budget spending: between 75-80% derives from state budgets", the fact-sheet said, adding, "To expect states to increase their spending to meet the goal of spending 20% of the government budgets on education is unsustainable, especially for states already struggling to accommodate needs of higher child populations."
It underlined, "State governments’ share of the education budget has declined following the reduction of tied funds through centrally sponsored schemes, as recommended by the 14th Finance Commission. States alone cannot deal with the need for higher public expenditure required to meet the education ambition laid out in the National Education Policy -- they need support from the central government."
Speaking at the discussion organised on the occasion of the National Girl Child Day (January 24), RTE Forum national convener Ambarish Rai said, the government should prioritise investments, particularly towards gender-transformative education to improve girls’ access to a free, safe and quality education.
He added, there should be special focus on allocating more resources to the lagging states, particularly those with the lowest capacity to raise resources, and build systems to bring tied grants, such as Samgra Shiksha, under greater public scrutiny.
Participated by over 50 experts, the discussion began with experience sharing by girls studying in schools located in the urban slums and resettlement colonies in Delhi. Speaking about everyday experiences and challenges, Neha narrated how her teacher is not able to understand her sign-language, which she feels is a major barrier in her communication with her teacher.
Alka from Narela, an urban resettlement colony in Delhi, shared her concerns regarding the infrastructural gaps in her school. “There is no clean drinking water in my school, for which it becomes difficult for me and my friends. Even outside school it is not safe for us”, she said.
Varsha talked of gender disparity in sharing household chores and how her family members expected her to manage household chores with her studies and not her brother.
Experts who spoke on the occasion included Urmilesh, senior journalist; Mohd Salam Khan, Child Welfare Committee chairperson; Rita Singh, member, Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights; and Anjela Taneja, and lead campaigner, Oxfam India.

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