By Abid Hussain Rather
The importance of education for human development has been emphasized through various international and national fundamental rights, acts and principals. Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has declared right to education as a 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.
There should be no bias on the basis of gender and girl child should be provided equal opportunities as their counterparts for attaining education. In modern times education is considered as an important and powerful tool for the socio-economic development of a nation. The educational level of a country determines its progress and prosperity as education moulds our behaviour, attitude and our outlook and opens new corridors of success for us. Education is vital for human resource development and social transformation of society. The girls’ education has gained a special significance in the present world as the girls are a valuable human resource and play an important role in the overall development of a nation. Education makes them aware of their legal, social, political and economic rights. It enables them to fight against every kind of discrimination and makes them realize their potentialities. Education helps them to raise their status in 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 commonly known fact that mother’s lap is the first school for every human being, so educated mother means 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. Ramya has rightly said that “If general education is to be limited to men or women, that opportunity should be given to women, for then it would more surely be passed to the next generation.”
Despite the 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 women of Jammu and Kashmir also lag behind in technical and professional education. There is a dearth of women in technical and professional fields and we have few women judges, pilots and 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 J&K. 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. So parents always have a fear of sending their girls for schooling and prefer them to stay at home. The girls often have to pass through many areas occupied by armed forces while going to their educational institutes and due to fear they avoid attending their schools and try to stay inside their homes. Secondly, due to ignorance and poverty most of the females living in far flung rural areas are mostly dependent on 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 dropout in the primary or middle stage. Though most of the girls may be enrolled in schools for education only a few of them reach to the 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 higher education stage. The number of dropouts 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 problems in our 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 schools where there is co-education system due to some religious and cultural beliefs. Along with this deterrence one more encumbering factor is a transport problem in our state. 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. 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 to educate male children over females. There are still few religious and cultural dogmas among people of Jammu and Kashmir which become great impediment for females to step in the world of science and technology. Most of the females 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 a number of other obstacles which have badly affected the girl education in our state.
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 Balika Vidyalaya and many others to promote education among girls. Various scholarships are given to female students at different stages. Many NGOs have played an important role in this field and the results have been so yielding. As a result of these initiatives and intervention, there has been a continuous rise in the female literacy in our state. But the task has not ended yet 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 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 and proper timing 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, the informal 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 of 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 policymakers, rational governance of administrators and good attitude of common people can surely help in raising the standards of girl education.
(The author can be reached at [email protected].)