Community Perspectives on Girls’ Education
Deepak became concerned about the disproportionate number of girl students not enrolled in rural schools. While the education of parents played some role in this disparity (with less-educated parents less likely to send or keep their girl children in school) it was an issue that persisted among educated villagers and even local school teachers who prioritized funding the education of their sons at the expense of the daughters. As a result, he designed a project to better understand and encourage positive community attitudes towards girls’ education and women’s empowerment.
The project was designed in three parts. First, Deepak conducted door-to-door surveys in 500+ households in rural Tamil Nadu to better understand local attitudes on the education landscape and the factors that shaped those attitudes. In addition to asking about parents’ ambitions for their children, the survey included questions on their awareness of the local RTE Act (Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009) and sought their perceptions of key limitations to educating their children (e.g., issues such as lack or water or latrines, or financial instability, etc.)
Secondly, he sought to generate greater awareness of gender bias among his own students, particularly male students. He screened Girls Rising videos to examine the issue from a global perspective while hosting discussions about challenges affecting girls’ education in the local community.
Finally, upon learning that the cost of school fees (or related indirect costs like travel, books or lost wages) prevents many girls from enrolling and staying in school, Deepak advocated local rural schools to launch fee-waiver and scholarship schemes for girls from financially unstable families.
Deepak ultimately wants to see increased enrollment of girls in rural English medium schools in his placement community. On the path to that, he wants to use his project to raise awareness and expectations around girls’ education among parents for their daughters, among boys who will grow into future men and fathers in society, and among girls themselves. He is encouraged by a few examples already of boys in his classroom reaching out to family members to encourage them to send girls to school. He has also shared his findings with a local non-profit working in rural education.