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Friday, December 5, 2008

Quality in Education





IN yet another effort to empower the girl child, plans are underway to upgrade the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) upto the secondary level. Currently, it is till class VIII. In addition, 320 new KGBVs would be added to the existing 2,180, increasing the number to 2,500. Another 3,500 KGBVs would be added in the next three to five years and 40,000 existing schools would be upgraded, according to Arun Kumar Rath, secretary, School Education and Literacy. 
   Introduced as a scheme in 2004, KGBVs became a part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in 2007 and are currently operational in 24 states and one union territory in India. The schools cater to girls from marginalised social groups in over 3,000 educationally backward blocks (EBBs), where the rural female literacy is below the national average, according to SSA. As per the scheme, 75% of enrolment is for girls from SC, ST, OBC or minority community and 25% from below poverty line (BPL). The scheme is being implemented by state governments through SSA. 
   Roop Rekha Verma, former vice-chancellor, University of Lucknow, said that KGBV advocates the upliftment of girls from the most marginalised sections of society.


The programme focusses on bridging the gender disparity in education at the elementary level. Said Neerja Shukla, professor and head, Department of Women’s Studies, NCERT: “Promotion of girls’ education has been central to the efforts of universalising elementary education. The SSA recognises the need for special efforts to bring girls, especially from disadvantaged groups, to schools, and to bridge gender disparity in education.” 
   Vrinda Sarup, joint secretary, Bureau of Elementary Education, said that KGBV girls act as agents of social change and catalysts for reforms. She also praised states such as Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand for upgrading their KGBVs upto class X. 
   A team, constituted by the ministry of human resources and development (MHRD) to evaluate the KGBV scheme in February and November 2007, found that the scheme was successful in enrolling the most needy girls. The team also felt that the focus should be on educational, psychological and vocational needs.


The evaluation brought various issues to light, including enrolment and retention. “As these girls are either first generation learners or those who are attending schools after a gap, the curriculum has to be strategically planned using a variety of pedagogical methods based on specific educational needs. Another challenge is to empower them to face competition in the outside world,” said Gouri Srivastava, coordinator, National Consultation. 
   It was also observed that most of the courses for strengthening these schools were gender stereotypical like tailoring and sewing, among others. Though computers are available in some schools, they aren’t used due to lack of teacher training. The need, therefore, is to integrate life skills and vocational skills along with other courses offered to empower the girl child. 
   As regards teachers employed, most of them are parateachers. Besides, findings of the National Evaluation Team reflected poor content knowledge of teachers especially in science, maths, English and social studies and the training provided was inadequate. Added Shukla: “We need to strengthen teacher training to promote participatory learning.” The salary structure of teachers is, again, poor as compared to those of regular government teachers, resulting in a high attrition rate. 
   Health is also a major area of concern as these girls come from areas with poor hygiene and sanitation conditions. Rashmi Sinha, state coordinator, Mahila Samakhya, Uttar Pradesh, stated that 99.9% of girls have a haemoglobin level of less than nine grams, and some have even as low as three or four grams at the time of admission to a KGBV while it becomes normal after sometime. 
   Sharda Jain, a gynaecologist, on the other hand, assured that professional bodies like the Indian Medical Association and Gynaecological Association of India would extend voluntary health check-ups for KGBVs. 


Provision for budgeted ‘Group Health Insurance’ for all girls should be built-in Raise the amount for nutrition from Rs 25 per-day per-girl to Rs 50 Urgent need for improved working conditions for Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya’s (KGBV) teachers Need to connect school life with existing and lived realities which girls face outside the school and strengthening teacher training programmes Greater use of theatre, puppetry to address issues like untouchability and other socio-cultural taboos Public-private partnership (PPP) is necessary for improving quality of learning in KGBVs 

Empowering madrasas 

VISUALISE this: A male teacher delivering the lessons through a mike to girls who are sitting in a separate room with a female teacher. This is the scenario at Jamia-Tul-Banat Madrasa in Jamia Nagar, Okhla. Further, imagine a classroom setting where girls are without their veils and a male teacher is teaching them face-to-face. But there is a thin curtain in the middle of the room separating the teacher from the students. This is the setting observed at another madrasa in Jamia-Tul-Falah in Azamgarh district and Jamia-Tul-Salehat in Rampur district. 
   These are some of the observations from the research conducted by Sushma Jaireth, a reader with the Department of Women's Studies, NCERT, on madrasa education for women. The research, which is still ongoing, aims to raise awareness on education and empowerment of the Muslim girl child. Jaireth is focusing on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 with emphasis on gender bias and stereotyping. 
   She also found that boys’ madrasas have better infrastructure and boarding facilities compared to girl’ madrasas except Jamia-Tul-Salehat, Rampur, where the infrastructure and boarding facilities are well-planned. 
   According to Jaireth the objective of her research is “to examine gender perceptions of both girl and boy students, teachers, head teachers, parents and community leaders among the Muslims.” She further added, “also, to evolve strategies for equality and empowerment of Muslim girls.”
   Jaireth said that from the research they want to find out to what extent the curriculum through the teaching-learning process would help build the girl students’ self-confidence, and empower them to take decisions. “We cannot generalise as few madrasas are working towards the goal of self-reliance for girls such as the Jamia-Tus-Salehat, the largest girls’ madrasa at Rampur district in Uttar Pradesh. “It has more than 2,000 girls and a meticulously planned curriculum that provides Talim to the girls and more than 1,000 girls are in the hostel. On completion of the course, the girls are awarded Alimiat equivalent to class XII certification. Girls, who want to continue with their studies, get awarded with Fazilat, equivalent to BA or graduation. These awards are recognised by institutions of higher learning like Jamia Hamdard University, Jamia Millie Islamic and Oligarch Muslim University,” she said. 
   Sharing her experiences with Islahi, the Nazim at Rampur and also the leader of the community, she said that he is enthusiastic about providing traditional education to Muslim girls, and wants them to excel in the fields of Islamic studies such as Islamic science, Islamic law and Arabic, among others. According to him, she added, only 2% of Muslim girls are taking this kind of education and they do not want any interference in the curriculum and are also prepared to educate and empower other girls. 
   She pointed out that, “Restrictions such as the purdah and segregation from boys are imposed on girl students after puberty and this leads to girls dropping out from a madrasa.” 
   The study is being carried out in seven districts in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, where a sizeable Muslim population lives and the status of girls’ education and female literacy is low, especially among the Muslim community. 
   On how the study would help to empower madrasas, she said: “It’s a two-way process. When we interact with these people, we are also creating awareness about various issues in the process.” 

Sushma Jaireth shared a few strategies to help empower girls’ madrasas: Vocational skills need to be included in the curriculum Life skills such as communication, problem-solving, decision-making, legal literacy, and so on need to be integrated in to the curriculum Physical education, sports, yoga and self-defence are vital Sensitising the community through awareness programmes on educating the girl child, health and nutrition issues Gender sensitising parents are teachers Counselling girls on career and life skills Women role models from both within and outside the community to inspire the girls





   Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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