OPINION

Girls’ Education: Kashmir Perspective

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Much needs to be done to do away with gender disparity in literacy

By: Abid Hussain Rather

The importance of education for human development has been emphasized by one and all. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) describes right to education as fundamental right. In our country the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act 2002 has made education a fundamental right for children in the age group of 6-14 years irrespective of their gender.  So there should be no bias on the basis of gender and female folk should be provided equal opportunities as their counter parts for attaining education.

In modern times education is considered as an important and powerful tool for the socio economic development of a nation.  Educational level of a country determines its progress and prosperity as education molds our behavior, attitude and our outlook and opens new corridors of success for us. Education is vital for human resource development and social transformation of a society.

The girl education has gained a special significance in the present world as the female folk is a valuable human resource and plays an important role in the overall development of a nation. Education makes the  female folk aware about their legal, social, political and economic rights. It enables them to fight against every kind of discrimination and makes them to realize their potentialities. Education helps them to raise their status in the society. It not only encourages them in political participation and economic independence but also improves their quality of life.

Education helps a woman to acquire skills and self confidence to fight against hunger, poverty, ignorance and ill health. Educated women keep a balance in the family expenditure thus improving the economic conditions of their families. As it is a known fact that mother’s lap is the first school for every human being, so educated mother means a better schooling for a child right from birth which in turn would lead to a better and educated nation. In modern times women education is considered more important than that of men. It is said that if you educate a man, you educate an individual; if you educate a woman, you educate the whole family. The University Education Commission (1949) has rightly stated that there can’t be educated men without educated women.

Despite above mentioned significance of girls’ education, their participation in the field of education in Jammu and Kashmir is quite dismal and unsatisfactory. As we know that over all literacy rate of Jammu and Kashmir is 68.74% (census 2011) and it is one of the educationally backward regions of India. There is a wide gender gap in the literacy rates. The male literacy rate is 78.26% and female literacy rate is just 58.01% which depicts a gender literacy gap of 20.25%. Though there has been a considerable progress in the female literacy rate from earlier data of 2001 census (43.0%) but the gender disparity in the literacy rate still exists there.

As per reports, there has been an increase in literacy rates among females in urban areas but in rural and far flung areas the situation is still unsatisfactory.  The female folk of Jammu and Kashmir also lag far behind in technical and professional education.  There is a dearth of female folk in technical and professional fields and we have few female judges, female pilots and female administrators as their enrollment in these fields is very low.

There are various factors responsible for this gender disparity in education between males and females in our state (now UT). Firstly, we all know that there has been political instability in Jammu and Kashmir from past three decades. No one knows what is going to happen in next hour of a day in our state (now UT). So parents always have a fear of sending their girls for schooling and prefer them to stay at home.

Secondly, due to ignorance and poverty most of the female folk living in far flung rural areas are mostly dependent on their males for their survival and have no knowledge of their rights and duties. They have no courage to make decisions of their own. They have to rely on the decision taken by their parents and due to their stereotype thinking they are prohibited from education as their parents believe that it is only wastage of time, money and energy to educate a girl child. Due to this stereotype thinking, the girls in rural areas have lost interest in the studies and they prefer to drop out in primary or middle stage. Though most of the girls may be enrolled in schools for education but only few of them reach to secondary or higher secondary stage as they are engaged in household and agricultural work  before that or they are married before reaching to college stage. Hardly a few percent of them reach to higher education stage. The number of drop outs in these stages is more than the number of enrollments in the primary stage.

Thirdly, there is a lack of convenient girl schools, female teachers, hostels for girls and good infrastructure along with transport in Jammu and Kashmir. In most of the far flung areas there still doesn’t exist any school which is exclusively for girls which becomes a major hindrance in the girl education as most of the parents don’t prefer to send their girl children to those school where there is co education system due to some religious and cultural beliefs. Along with this deterrence one more encumbering factor is transport problem in the UT. There are still some roads in our rural areas where only one or two local service vehicles ply only in the early morning and late evening hours in the whole day. This becomes a great hindrance for all those females who have to travel long distances for attending their educational institutes.

Fourthly, there are some socio economic and cultural beliefs and constraints which hinder the girl education in Jammu and Kashmir. We have usually big families and due to poverty and economic problems, the parents prefer male children over female children when it comes to the education. There are still few religious and cultural dogmas among the people of Jammu and Kashmir which become great impediment for female folk to step in the world of science and technology. Most of the female folk in traditional Muslim families are still restricted to traditional education and they are not allowed to explore the world of science and technology.

Besides these important factors there are countless other obstacles which have badly affected the girl education in Jammu and Kashmir. Over the years, the government at central and state level has taken many initiatives and launched many schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level, Kasturba Gandhi BalikaVidyalaya and many others to promote education among girls. Various scholarships are given to female students at different stages. Various  NGOs  have played an important role in this field and the results have been so yielding. As a result of these initiatives and  interventions there has been a continuous rise in the female literacy in the UT. But the task doesn’t end  here and a gender gap in literacy still exists in our region and our females are still educationally backward. This problem needs to be addressed in a proper form. Much needs to be done in rural areas where this gender disparity in literacy is wider.

The Government authorities and NGOs along with other socio religious organizations have to come forward to eradicate this disparity and aware people about the essence of girl education. There should be new avenues and attractions like free books, free uniform, free transport facilities, scholarships, proper timing etc. for female education.  Educational institutes should be safer places for our sisters and daughters. There should be separate allotment of funds both at central and state level for raising the standards of girl education. Along with formal education, non formal education system for women like Open Distance Learning (ODL) is indispensable for raising the level of female literacy. The illiterate and ignorant people should be made aware about the need and importance of female education, so that they may come out of the religious and socio cultural dogmas and take pains in educating their female children.

In conclusion it can be said that sound decisions by policy makers, rational governance of administrators and good attitude of common folk can surely help in raising the standards of girl education.

  • The author teaches Geography at GDC Kulgam. He can be reached at rather1294@gmail.com)

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