Interview with Mrs. Sulbha Donde
Sulbha Donde is the Chairperson of the Women’s Network at EI's member organisation, the All India Primary Teachers Federation (AIPTF).
1. What is the main challenge facing education for girls in India?
In India we face a drop out rate of girls that is much higher than that of boys. In a State like Uttar Pradesh, more than 60% of all girls do not complete upper primary education. There are many causes: poverty in the family; access to schools, social taboos associated with girls education especially with those who belong to scheduled tribes and castes, lack of facilities in schools and insufficient female teachers in villages in particular. Also, many parents question the need to send their daughters to school. They would rather have them around the house doing domestic work and taking care of the younger siblings.
2. What policies are needed to improve girls’ education in India?
It is important to tackle the problem through very specific measures. Having separate toilets in schools for example would make a great difference. But there are also other solutions, such as scholarships. In Uttar Pradesh for instance, girls get free uniforms, shoes, midday meals, free books, bicycles etc. When they complete secondary school and wish to go for further education they get 20,000 Rupees (US $500). In addition, teachers have to be more proactive and attentive to ensure that all girls keep going to school. In some states teachers are actively involved in enrolment and retention campaigns.
3. What are unions in Southern Asia doing to promote education for the girl child?
We did a good study on girls’ status in education. We also are active in campaigning to raise awareness on what teachers should and should not do in schools. We produced a “do’s and don’ts” booklet for teachers. The unions in South Asia are engaged in the following activities to promote girls’ education.
i. Focus on girls child education i.e. enrolment and retention ii. Awareness programmes for teachers iii. Special programmes to promote girls in selected states and areas involving teachers, community and civil society organisations