7 barriers and enablers for accessing quality education for girls in rural areas

7 barriers and enablers for accessing quality education for girls in rural areas

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Challenges and importance of girl education: Addressing barriers and inequalities

Girl education contributes to a healthier, wealthier, more stable, and more equitable society. However, not all girls receive access to quality education. In the world, 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are still not enrolled in school, of whom 75% are adolescents. The lack of infrastructure at schools, child marriages, and poverty are just some of the barriers keeping girls away from attending school and achieving their dreams. Disruptions to education caused by pandemics have further exacerbated learning inequalities among girls and young women.

Study shows that educating girls reduces poverty, prevents child marriages, improves maternal health and mortality, and reduces violence. 

Additionally, each additional year girls spend in school can boost their earning potential by up to 20% as adults. 

It is time to close the gender gap in education and give both genders an equal chance to succeed in education. However, before that, we need to understand what barriers stop girls from rural areas from accessing quality education.

Challenges in Girl Education:

  • Social Norms and Cultural Practices: Deep-rooted societal norms often prioritize boys’ education over girls’, leading to unequal opportunities and limited access to schooling for girls.
  • Economic Constraints: Poverty and financial instability in families can force parents to prioritize their sons’ education, leaving girls with limited or no access to schooling.
  • Child Marriage and Early Parenthood: Girls are often forced into early marriages or motherhood, cutting short their educational opportunities and perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.
  • Safety Concerns: Safety concerns, including long and unsafe travel distances to school, harassment, and violence, deter many girls from pursuing education.
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Inadequate school facilities, including separate sanitation facilities for girls and inadequate transportation options, pose significant barriers to girls’ education.

Importance of Girl Education:

  • Empowerment and Equality: Education empowers girls by providing them with knowledge, skills, and opportunities to pursue their dreams and aspirations, leading to greater gender equality in society.
  • Health and Well-being: Educated girls are more likely to make informed decisions about their health, leading to lower maternal and infant mortality rates and better overall health outcomes for families and communities.
  • Economic Development: Educated girls contribute to economic growth and development by entering the workforce, earning higher incomes, and investing in their families’ education and well-being.
  • Social Change: Educated girls are more likely to challenge discriminatory norms and practices, leading to broader social change and progress towards gender equality.
  • Community Development: Girls’ education is essential for building more robust and resilient communities, as educated women play vital roles in promoting social cohesion, peace-building, and sustainable development.

Education is a necessity or a cost?

Poverty is an important factor that determines a girl’s access to education, according to the World Bank. Many parents are not able to pay school fees in private schools, and even in schools where fees seem non-existent, there is still a price to pay for uniforms, transportation, and resources like notebooks and pens.

Sometimes, parents perceive their daughters’ education as unwise, believing that girls will eventually marry and move to their husband’s house, and the amount invested in their education will go to waste. Especially in rural areas, many girls are engaged in labor work from an early age, and sending them to school cuts the costs of their labor work.

Problems with women education in India

  • Gender Discrimination: Societal norms and gender biases often prioritize boys’ education over girls’, leading to lower enrollment rates for girls in schools.
  • Economic Barriers: Poverty forces many families to prioritize short-term financial needs over girls’ education, often resulting in girls being kept at home to help with chores or work.
  • Early Marriage: Cultural practices of early marriage disrupt girls’ education, as they are often expected to take on household responsibilities at a young age.
  • Safety Concerns: Lack of safe transportation and concerns about harassment and violence deter many parents from sending their daughters to school.
  • Inadequate Infrastructure: Many schools in rural areas lack basic facilities like clean toilets, which mainly affects girls during menstruation, leading to higher dropout rates.
  • Limited Access to Secondary Education: While primary education access has improved, many girls still lack access to secondary and higher education due to fewer schools and higher costs.

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Let’s discuss some issues related to girl education in India 

1. Violence and Security

Many parents across different regions of the country avoid sending their girl child to school out of fear of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence can take many forms, such as physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, and bullying

Parents are less likely to let their daughters travel to school if they have to travel long distances across unsafe areas. This is particularly prevalent in rural areas where there is less access to safe public transportation, and parents fear that their daughters will experience abuse on the way to school.

2. Household Chores and Cultural Norms

Girls often face pressure to conform to traditional roles, leading to a lack of encouragement and support from family and community for their educational aspirations.

Household duties, caring for family members, early marriage, and childbirth are all factors that contribute to girls missing out on education. In Indian cultures where these expectations are the norm, girls’ education is lower on a family’s list of priorities. 

Forced domestic work can lead to low self-esteem in girls and a lack of interest in education. Worldwide, girls spend 40% more time performing unpaid household chores like cooking, cleaning, and collecting water and firewood than boys.

Also Read: Leadership traits you need to practice to become a successful school leader

3. Poor Infrastructure and Menstrual Hygiene

Girls’ education is often impacted by poor health and nutritional status, which affects their ability to attend and perform in school.

Inadequate infrastructure and negative experiences discourage girls from attending school. The lack of functional toilets, separate toilets for girls and boys, washing areas, and access to sanitary products makes it difficult for girls to attend school due to hygiene and health concerns. Menstrual taboos in society also prevent girls from attending school during their menstruation period. Overcrowded classrooms lower the quality of the learning experience, which reduces girls’ interest in education.

If we want to create a better world, we need to invest in girls’ education and work on enabling more accessibility to education for girls.

Schools

In many schools, the quality of education could be better, with outdated curricula and teaching methods that do not engage or benefit girls effectively.

Also in many regions, the scarcity of female teachers discourages parents from sending their daughters to school, especially in conservative areas.

In order to provide equal opportunities and quality education to all genders, schools have a responsibility to provide appropriate infrastructure with functional toilets, washing areas, and sanitary products. Opportunities in school to develop talents outside of academics like sports and other skills, and participation in competitions to encourage girls to attend school.

Awareness is key to bringing more girls into the flow of education. Schools can take the initiative and spread awareness among parents and society, and support them by suggesting solutions to girls’ education problems.

Community

Girls often face pressure to conform to traditional roles, leading to a lack of encouragement and support from family and community for their educational aspirations.

The community can contribute to promoting girls’ education by breaking taboos and stereotypes that are deterring girls from going to school. They can acknowledge and award girls and their families who have completed their education, started careers, and are earning.

Family and Peers

Supportive peers and family can create a positive school-going experience. Successful peers can motivate other girls to pursue education and guide them to overcome barriers. It is the parents’ responsibility to recognize the importance of girls’ education and provide basic resources like books, pens, and uniforms to the girl child.

Government Policy and Implementation Gaps

While there are policies in place to promote girls’ education, inadequate implementation and monitoring result in these policies failing to reach the intended beneficiaries effectively.

Conclusion

Educating girls is crucial for moving towards a better world. It is time for multiple stakeholders, including girls, families, teachers, communities, and boys, to come together to overcome all barriers to girls’ education. Building confidence, self-esteem, leadership, and decision-making qualities among girls, providing gender training for teachers, and strengthening schools’ capacity to be responsive to girls’ needs are some ways that can make a difference in girls’ education status in rural India.

Read More – How One Visionary Woman Leader Is Making A Difference In Girls’ Education

FAQs

1. What are the barriers for girls’ education?

Girls’ education in India faces numerous barriers, including gender discrimination, where societal norms favor boys’ education. Economic constraints force families to prioritize boys’ schooling over girls’. Additionally, early marriage and safety concerns, such as harassment and violence, further hinder girls’ educational opportunities.

2. What is the biggest challenge to women’s education?

The biggest challenge to women’s education in India is deeply entrenched gender inequality. Cultural norms and stereotypes devalue girls’ education, viewing it as less important than household duties. This leads to limited support from families and communities, significantly reducing girls’ access to and retention in schools.

3. How is the quality of education in rural areas?

The quality of education in rural areas could be better, with inadequate infrastructure and a lack of qualified teachers. Many rural schools need more basic facilities like clean toilets and proper classrooms, particularly affecting girls’ attendance. Additionally, outdated curricula and teaching methods fail to engage students effectively.

4. What is the main problem of women’s education in India?

The main problem of women’s education in India is the persistent gender disparity reinforced by cultural norms. These norms prioritize boys’ education and view girls’ education as unnecessary. This results in lower enrollment rates, higher dropout rates for girls, and limited access to quality education and opportunities for women.

5. How to improve women’s education?

Improving women’s education requires addressing gender biases through awareness campaigns and policy reforms prioritizing girls’ education. Financial incentives, scholarships, and safe school environments can encourage more girls to attend school. Additionally, improving infrastructure, increasing the number of female teachers, and ensuring quality education are crucial steps.

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