Published On:17 May 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Gender Equity and access; Special focus on Muslim Girls and Open Schooling

By Dr. Shabistan Gaffar

On 14th and 15th March, 2012 two days National Seminar was organised by National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) on the theme ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Future, gender equity and Open Schooling. It was organised by NIOS at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. Speakers and participants of the Seminar were from all over the country including, academicians, social activist, educationalists, etc from different Government and Non-Government organisations and institutions.

Being the Academic Member NIOS, I was told to present the paper, on the eve of International Women Day as a Celebration of economic, social, cultural and political achievement made by women in India recognising their contribution to nation building. Within the framework of a democratic polity, our laws, our development policies and programmes have aimed at women’s advancement in different sphere. Yet, school education statistics 2009-10 shows that half of the girls dropout before the complete secondary level of schooling in India. This becomes even more acute or disadvantaged sections like SC & Minorities, where more than three quarter of girls fail to complete secondary level of schooling.

I listen all the speakers who have different perspective at religious level as well as social level for empowerment of women. But I shared that when Islam exists before 1400 years the firsts verse was revealed to Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W.) Iqra (Seek and acquire Knowledge both men and women) and other rights which Islam has given to women. Then I shared with them the successful Islamic Women Feminists during Prophet’s time and how successful and learned they were. I also shared the low level of education of Muslim girls owe not religion but to poverty. According to my concept the Muslim community of girls leave school faster than any other community. The reason ascribed for this glaring trend comprise illiteracy of parents,. poverty, non availability of girls’ school in neighbourhood, chid labour, early marriage, perceived barrier regarding of other non- encouraging atmosphere at home, lesser number of female teachers as compared to male teachers, improper infrastructure, non-availability of girls’ hostels in town and smaller cities and the like. Generally speaking, illiterate parents do not value and support girls’ education especially in challenging situations.

The Muslims record the highest incidence of poverty with 31% of people being poor. The average literacy rate was 50.1% for Muslim women and 53.7% for all communities. Gender disparity in literacy rates is 9.67% in rural and 13.11% in urban areas. Only 3.6% Muslims are graduates as compared to the National Average of 6.7%. Mean Years of Schooling (MYS) for 7-16 years of age in 2001 was 3.9 years. In that it was 3.26 years for Muslims and 2.7 years for Muslim girls.

In India as a whole,, Muslim girls’ school enrolment rates continue to be low: 40.6%, as compared to 63.2% in the case of ‘upper’ caste Hindus. In rural north India it is only 13.5%, in urban north India 23.1%, and in rural and urban south India, above 70%, which is above the all-India average for all girls. Only 16.1% of Muslim girls from poor families attend schools, while 70% of Muslim girls from economically better-off families do so, thus clearly suggesting that low levels of education of Muslim girls owe not to religion but to poverty.

Less than 17% of Muslim girls finish eight years of schooling and less than 10% complete higher secondary education. In the north the corresponding figures are 4.5% and 4.75% respectively, compared to the national female average of 17.8% and 11.4%. Only 1.5% rural Muslims, both boys and girls, and 4.8% urban Muslim children are enrolled in senior secondary schools.

The average number of years that Muslim girls study is a dismal 2.7 years, as compared to 3.8 years in the case of Hindu girls. The number of years that a Muslim girl studies in north India is half that of her south Indian counterpart In other words, on the whole, Muslim girls are characterized by a low enrolment rate and a very high drop-out rate from the formal schooling system.

The Government, policy makers, educationalists and the community leaders may be seen perturbed on this grim situation and various schemes and proposals are on the board for redressing the obtained conditions of minority women in general and that of the Muslim women in particular. Most Government bodies are planning in their own way and within the limits of mandates to ameliorate the situation.

In this context, the National Commission for Minority Educational institutions taken a laudable decision in forming the Committee on Girls Education for studying and analyzing the situation of girls of minority communities and to recommend specific proposal to the Commission for alleviating the same.

The Committee on Girls’ Education as constituted by the NCMEI, has practically worked for more than two years in discharging its assigned responsibilities. During the period of more than two years as the Chairperson of the Committee I travelled more than 18 States, visited hundreds of organizations running thousands of minority girls’ institutions from primary to professional level, met lakhs of people across the country and interacted with minority community especially those who are involved with girls’ education, particularly students, teachers and management to find out what are their challenges and issues for empowerment of women through education. Some of them shared very innovations in girls education.

The enrolment figures in schools, for girls are comparatively lower than those for that of boys indicating that my girls do not get enrolled in schools. Thirty four percent of girls dropout before they complete class 5. One of the major reasons why so many girls do not attend the school is because of their work load, both within and outside the household. Daughters are often kept at home to help the family because the social economic value of educating girls is not recognized. It is little known fact that among the world’s exploited child workers, girls outnumber boys. Without access to education girls is denied the knowledge and skills needed to advance their status.

Special measure are required for this purpose to protect the girl child’s prospects of survival and security, from conception to birth, in her early years, and throughout the period of her childhood. Both child development and primary health services must be on alert to address these challenges, and the community must be motivated to play a protective role. The focus should be on five Es- equality, enabling environment and empowerment so that she is provided with equal opportunity for survival and development, protected against neglect and abuse, and offered the enabling means to develop to their full potential and lead a productive and healthy life.

Education of women is Promotion of Girls’ Education particularly at Elementary level is to bring certain benefits for the society in the form of social development and reconstruction. Promotion of Education of Girls needs to be in the form of content and quality of schooling, teachers, materials, enrolments, retentions, acquisitions of basic literacy and numeric skills.

As one of the major goals of education is to promote social justice, all gender and social category gaps are expected at primary level to be achieved by 2012 and at elementary level by 2015. In view of elementary education being a fundamental right of all children in the age group of 06-14 years as per the Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 and the Right of Children o Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

The need to encourage all girls to enrol in school and to retain them in the school system is imperative as education not only improves the worth and self esteem of the girl chid but also enables her to become an economically independent and productive.

An important reason for girls’ dropping out of schooling is lack of proper toilet and sanitary facilities. High priority is therefore needed to be accorded to providing separate girls’ toilet with proper water and sanitation facilities. Efforts through Department of Education should be made to increase the number of female teachers at all levels so as to encourage girl chid to continue in school in a safer environment.

Further, Bridge Schools with quality package should provide to girl children, especially street children, child labourers, seasonal migrants, who may have not been in formal education system. These bridge schools should ultimately lead to their integration in the formal system. Education policy should also be sensitive towards cultural and linguistic diversity of Indian Society, and therefore uniform standards should not be applied. There should be increased access of minorities in all non-minority institutions.
One issue that is in very of core of girls’ education is the mass education. When it is said that a large number of women are illiterate or have completed only primary education then in that case the reference is being made to millions of them. It is hardly possible to create school infrastructure for all of them so that they could pursue their studies if somehow they become interested to do so. The existing infrastructure is already under heavy burden. In such a situation distance mode of education seems a panacea for women education in the country. As back as by 1966 the Education Commission endorsed the importance of masse education in these words, “…Besides, the knowledge explosion and the consequent demand for acquiring news skills and knowledge is placing pressure on the educational system to accommodate more and more…”  Presently, around 3 million students join distance or open mode of learning, half of them appear for exam in secondary and senior secondary certificates through the National Institute of Open Schooling and the rest pursue their higher education through this system mainly through IGNOU and other authorised universities.
NIOS has been providing tremendous job for bringing the minority girls in the mainstream through open schooling education.

Let me quote about what NIOS has been providing.

NIOS provides education upto pre-degree level to those who for one reason or the another could not or did not make use of the formal education system. NIOS offers the courses to meet the needs and requirements of such group of learners. However, it needs to be made clear that open schooling is for all learners of the society and offers the promise of being the mainstream learning system like the present day of formal schooling system at some point of time in future.
The NIOS has introduced the Open Basic Education (OBE) Programme as an alternative educational Programme to align with the objective of Ministry of Human Resrouce Development (MHRD), Government of India to provide Basic Education to all children, youth and adults in the country under its Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), OBE Programmes of NIOS is equivalent to the Elementary Education Programmme of the formal education system. It is offered at the following three levels.

Level A: Equivalent to Class-3
Level B : Equivalent to Class-5
Level C: Equivalent to Class-8

The Secondary Course is equivalent to 10th standard of the formal schooling system. One can join this course irrespective of an formal pre-qualification. Successful completion of minimum of five subjects is necessary for obtaining a certificate. Wide range of subjects available to choose from. The course may be completed in a minimum period of one year to a maximum are of 5 years.

The Senior Secondary courses are designed for those who have passed X standard or equivalent examination and would like to continue their education towards a Senior Secondary certification, equivalent to XII standard. The course is recognized by many boards of school education and bye several universities for admission to higher education.

The NIOS vocational courses are offered at pre secondary, senior secondary levels. The pre-secondary courses are linked to the Open Basis Education Programme of NIOS. Life enrichment courses are also offered as non-credit courses under the vocational stream. The vocational courses of NIOS are offered in broad areas like Agriculture, Engineering and Technology, Home Science, Business and Commerce, Computer Science and IT, Teachers Training, Library Science amongst others. The range of courses has been expanding upon learners’ needs and market demands. The present courses of NIOS relate to both urban and rural sector. During 2010-11, the NIOS offered more than 85 vocational courses.

[Dr. Shabistan Gaffar is Chairperson, Committee on Girls’ Education, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Government of India, New Delhi. She can be contacted at shabistangaffar@rediffmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on May 17, 2012. Filed under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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