We wanted to study, but …

For young girls in villages, education is a luxury. But most of them are forced to discontinue their studies even before completing secondary education. Besides safety issues, there are many reasons behind their dropping out. In order to understand the roadblocks, Gaon Connection interviewed many girls in villages in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh

Shivani Gupta
| Updated: Last updated on February 12th, 2020,

“I stand nowhere. When the other girls study in school, I stay back at home and manage the household,” said Sultana Shaikh, 17, her voice choking. She lives in Hirli village in the Dewas district, which is 58 kms from Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

Like Sultana, Nasleem Khan, 16, could study only until 8thstandard. For her, reaching school was a task. She had to cross a swollen river on a “boat” which villagers had made using huge plastic drums. It wasn’t safe. “I wanted to become a doctor, just like the other girls,” said Nasleem who lives in the same village.

We spoke to many young girls in villages in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to understand what are the aspirations of these girls for whom education is a luxury owing to a variety of reasons.

Effective literacy rate for women from 2001 to 2011. Source: http://censusindia.gov.in/

Poor transportation facilities

A majority of the young girls interviewed for the story across the states said that they couldn’t pursue higher education because of poor transportation facilities — unavailability of public transport, shortage of buses and missing bridges on swollen rivers emerged as main reasons for dropping out. A few villages only had primary schools and so girls had to travel to far off districts if they had to continue their studies. For many, it wasn’t possible. Some simply couldn’t afford.

As there is no bridge over the river Kshipra in Hirli village of Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh, nearly 50-60 girls from this village remain deprived of secondary education. “We have to cross the river sitting on drums. It was scary as sometimes the drums would roll down in the river,” added Nasleem.

As per the 2011 Literacy census, in Madhya Pradesh, only 48.49% of women living in rural areas are literate as compared to 69.46% of the women living in the cities.

All the girls in Hirli village had to discontinue their studies after completing their 8th. “Had there been a bridge on the river, I would have never discontinued my studies. I would have been a different person then,” said Sultana. Even today, parents don’t send their daughters to far off places for higher education. Most of the girls stay at homes and take up odd jobs like stitching and do stitching works. As per the 2011 Literacy census, an effective literacy rate for men was 82.14% whereas for women it was 65.46%.

These girls in Madhya Pradesh have to cross the river sitting on drums

“Many girls don’t have cycles”

When Gaon Connection reporter interviewed girls in remote areas of Jharkhand, one of the girls said: “Our school is four kms away from here. We have to walk through a jungle to reach school. I have heard that child lifters have come to our village and they take away kidneys of children,” said Muskan Kumari, 15, who lives in Bamhani village in Gumla district in Jharkhand.

Many gram pradhans in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh say they have given bicycles to the village girls as per a government scheme. However, according to the report of Internal Journal of Advanced Education and Research, only 31% of rural women have been provided bicycle as government assistance.

Sudha Devi, 18, from Khairabiru village in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, said: “I don’t even have a cycle. My parents can’t afford the bus fare. Even though I have taken admission in a college, I have no idea if I will ever travel so far to attend the classes.” 33% of the girls living in villages discontinued their education due to negative parental attitude, while 36 % quit because of conveyance problem, says the report.

Only 31% of girls have been provided bicycle as government assistance, says a report

“Schools are too far”

According to the National Sample Survey Office, 2014, reasons for dropping out or discontinuance for persons in the age group of 5-29 years were far off schools, financial assistance and engagement in domestic activities. Of the 1,000 girls surveyed, 42 girls discontinued their studies because school was far off. while the count is nearly half of it (18) in the cities. However, as far as engagement in domestic activities is concerned, 329 village girls quit studies while the ratio is 59 for males.

“I do stitching work at home. I couldn’t study after my 12th. My parents said that the school is far off and that I don’t need to take any admission. Also, there were no means of commute,” said Pammi Devi, a resident of Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh. Pammi told Gaon Connection that the nearest college to her home is 30 kms away.

According to the literacy census of India, 50.6 % of rural female are literate while urban female are 76.9 % literate. As per 2011 census literacy rate in Uttar Pradesh, male literacy stands at 77.28%, while female literacy is at 57.18%.

Like Pammi in Uttar Pradesh, Kumari Lekhni Verma in Chhattisgarh had to give up on her dream of becoming a better person. “The college is 25 kms from my home. I wanted to study, but it is too far. I had to quit my studies,” said Lekhni who lives in Joratarai village in khairagarh tehsil of Chhattisgarh. The girls living here have to cover a distance of 25 kms to reach for the nearest college in Khairagarh, which is in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh.

Shortage of buses is one of major problems behind girls dropping out

“We face harassment”

In Bihar, young girls face harassment as they use public transport, “My friend was physically attacked in public transportation, but she couldn’t break out,” said Swarnim Chauhan, a local resident of Mushahri, Muzaffarpur in Bihar.

Alif Khan, a resident of the same village as Nasleen, is a father of five daughters and a son. He told Gaon Connection that he couldn’t let her daughters study after 8th as the way to school is too deserted in Bairagarh in Madhya Pradesh. “I used to remain restless until my daughters came back.”

“Our girls are mocked for being illiterate even after their marriages. We had requested the then minister Deepak Joshi for the construction of the bridge. He kept promising for 15 years and there is no bridge here yet. This year I am very hopeful that Kamal Nath will look into our problems,” said Qayyum khan, a resident of Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh.

“As a citizen, I demand that the government should set up a college for higher studies in our area so that many girls of our village don’t have to travel far for schools. Also, if a college is set up here, then our village will not lag behind in terms of education. The girls who quit studies will get a chance to pursue higher education and will not have to sit back at the homes,” said Sandeep Singh, head representative in Khairabiru village in Barabanki district.

After talking to Swarnim, it became clear as to why the girls who were interviewed didn’t want to face camera. “We, girls, are taught to give in and compromise. We are not taught how to fight back.”

(Inputs taken from Pushpendra Vaidya, Dinesh Sahu, Laxmi Devi, Virendra Singh, and Abhay Raj)