WHEN her relatives told Ranjitha’s mother that she should discontinue her daughter’s studies and let her work to help the family, she ignored them. She allowed Ranjitha to attend school at Thirumayam in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai district. Ranjitha’s illiterate mother, who works as a daily wage labourer to make ends meet, understood the importance of girls’ education. She knew that educating Ranjitha can help her climb out of poverty.
A non-profit organisation Community Action for Rural Development (CARD) came forward to help Ranjitha’s family by providing her with two sets of uniform, footwear and other educational materials.
But not every girl child in India is as lucky.
Extreme poverty, illiteracy of parents and entrenched patriarchy have all played a role in keeping the girls from reaching their full potential through education. Girls from marginalised communities in both rural and urban areas are often forced to do household chores and take care of their siblings rather than study in school.
And the pandemic has made matters worse. According to the Right to Education Forum, over 10 million girls in India are at risk of dropping out of secondary school because of the pandemic as low-income families cannot afford to spend money on education.
Every year, September 8 is celebrated as International Literacy Day by Unesco to remind the international community of the importance of literacy to achieve equitable growth.
Here we look at NGOs that are working among impoverished communities and encouraging girls’ education.
CARD works in various fields such as health, livelihood, women development projects and even the environment. But educational support to school children has been one of the focus areas. CARD’s initiatives in various rural districts of Tamil Nadu have helped girls from destitute backgrounds to go for secondary and higher secondary education and achieve their goals in life.
One of its programmes is focused on enrolling more and more girls to the government-run high schools in the Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu. It aims to motivate economically backward parents to send their girl children to school for higher education.
You can help CARD enrol more and more girls in secondary school by sponsoring essentials like uniform, school bag, notebooks, stationery and toiletries required for one year. You can donate here.
2. Seva Mandir
Seva Mandir’s strategy focuses on ensuring education for school dropouts, mostly girls, between the ages of 6-14 years in tribal areas of Rajasthan.
Seva Mandir also runs Shiksha Kendras (SKs) or bridge schools that help children acquire basic Hindi, Maths and English skills and motivate them to enrol into government schools to continue their further education. Currently, 138 SKs are reaching out to 5,096 children through 165 instructors. Under the unique concept of Shiksha Kendras, they involve the whole village in monitoring the school.
The pandemic has complicated this form of education, and more effort needs to be made now as there is a risk of an increasing number of children dropping out. Seva Mandir provides educational support and hygiene kits to children and small group teaching through daily visits by teachers, who are encouraged to engage parents of girl children to continue their education.
You can help more and more tribal children in rural Rajasthan access education by donating here.
Vidya & Child began in 1998 with the single aim of making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children belonging to socio-economically marginalised sections of society. Its first student was five-year-old Tumpa, who pursued graduation in Fine Arts. The majority of its learners are first-generation school-goers. And the children’s parents are illiterate or semi-literate working as domestic servants, industrial workers, rickshaw-pullers, street vendors, plumbers and carpenters.
Vidya & Child is helping over 1,800 children across five locations in semi-rural and rural settings through its school and after school support programmes. At these schools, the students study until they complete primary education. Girls’ education is an area that Vidya & Child looks at very closely.
The pandemic resulted in the complete closure of schools and children, especially with girls being forced out of schools. You can support the non-formal education of marginalised children and help them take their first step towards education here.
The organisation runs a school for specially abled children called Sangamam which provides free education. Its early intervention programmes reach differently abled children in rural areas and help them achieve their potential. The organisation caters to the needs of children under five years.
The Siva Saraswathi Vidyalaya (SSV), is a model school that tries to bring together differently abled students and regular students in the same classroom to provide them with a holistic education. They hope to inculcate in regular students an appreciation of the differently abled and vice versa.
Along with education, they train the children in sports, music and other extracurricular activities. You can help underprivileged children secure their education by donating here.
Having begun its work in 2001, Vatsalya’s primary focus is on children in Rajasthan. Its school, Vatsalya Shiksha Niketan, around 50 kilometres from Jaipur, is helping scores of students from impoverished backgrounds get free education until class 8.
While they shut the school during the pandemic, education didn’t stop. Vatsalya’s teachers visited the homes of children and distributed worksheets to catch up on their studies. Ration kits were also distributed among the children’s families.
The school’s teachers covered around 12 villages with their study material and worksheets. Encouraging parents to keep their wards in school and stress the importance of girls’ education is one of the primary tasks of the teachers of Vatsalya.
As Vatsalya tries its best, you can support the school enrol more children and cover their educational expenses by donating here.
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Kumara has been a professional journalist for over 15 years with stints in The Telegraph and Reader’s Digest. He grew up hating maths and physics. He is a post-graduate in history. Kumara believes that cricket and Seinfeld have answers to most questions that life throws at you.