Education of girl children-The silent half

It is high time we rethought our norms, values and social practices, in terms of whether they support educating girls. Much attention needs to be paid to improving inside-school environments, infrastructure, classroom instruction, support system, and inclusion of female teachers, primarily in outlying parts of Nepal.

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ASHOK RAJ KHATI
Rama Tamang from Ramechhap works in five houses, washing dishes. Towards late afternoon she goes to a local biscuit factory to make dough. She is rarely seen at school after interval. She always has convincing excuses for not doing homework. She has two younger sisters and a brother, whom she takes care of after her mother had a new baby. Nevertheless, she passed SLC in third division in supplementary examination.

I urged her to join college. She said, “I do not have money to buy books and pay for the tuition fees.” I assured her that we would provide her a scholarship. But she could not continue her study, because she had to care for three siblings. Her father was in Malaysia, and her mother was ailing. She hoped her father would earn some money, and come back and find a boy for her.

This year, only 36.5 percent of girls who took SLC examination passed. Though approximately equal number of boys and girls appeared in SLC, 47 percent boys crossed this ‘iron gate’. The pass rate of girls has plummeted by 6 to 10 percent in the last five years compared to boys. It is important to analyze this difference between male and female scholars in terms of the contexts they live in, the input they are provided, and the process of learning.

Context refers to the physical and social environments where a girl is educated. There are three major contexts: family, school and society. Nepali family model is a traditional one, where a girl is supposed to assist in household chores. Girls not only get insufficient time to study, but also have less interaction with outside world. Social dialogue and reflection on these interactions are instrumental in constructing one’s understanding of reality. Early marriages and various social restrictions on going outside, for instances on joining extra classes, tuition, or libraries, have hampered the education of many girls.

Girls shifting schools because of marriage encounter problems of adjustment. In many cases, girls are supposed to take care of their siblings in school and assist them with assignments at home. In school, it is common for girls to take leave after interval to meet family responsibilities. Many girls in secondary level miss classes three to five days a month during menstruation, because many schools do not have separate toilets for girls. These conditions lead to low attendance, low participation in extracurricular activities, and low attainment of homework and class-work.

Besides, many parents enroll their daughters in government schools whereas their sons study at private English medium schools. This year, the government did not provide home centers for SLC examination, leading to further disparity. Female students faced many challenges in maintaining a supportive environment. Many girls still confront societal threats, cultural inferiority and social insecurity in family, school and society, ultimately leading to their poor performance in examination.

Various aspects of our curricula represent a male dominant perspective. The hegemony of male perspective, from policy formulation level to implementation level, also seeps into our education. The proportion of female teachers in community schools are: 37.8 percent at primary level, 20.6 percent at lower secondary level, and 13.8 percent at secondary level. This does not encourage girls to be confident. Furthermore, there is an emerging gap between society and school. Government policy has clearly specified the role of society in education, and manifested it through the formulation of SMC (school management committee) and PTA (parents teachers’ association). But the writ of these established bodies is weak, and ineffective in terms of education in general, and promoting girls’ education in particular.

Regarding the process of teaching and learning, present school level curricula gives due emphasis to democracy, inclusion, human rights, critical pedagogy, learner centeredness, mother tongue education and global issues. But our teaching-learning process is conventional and mechanical.

A single approach, often borrowed from the west, does not suit all students from diverse backgrounds. Very few girls make an effort to opine in classrooms, nor do they dare to argue with teachers and boys. Mostly, it is boys who take part in debates and other competitions outside the schools. If a girl passes SLC, her parents assume it will help her find a ‘good’ husband and house. So there is a kind of pressure to cross this ‘barrier’, such that if a girl fails SLC, she is no more useful to her family and society. The upshots are suicides or suicide attempts. Last year, out of 12 suicides related to SLC, eight were girls.

It is high time we rethought our norms, values and social practices, in terms of whether they support educating girls. Much attention needs to be paid to improving inside-school environments, infrastructure, classroom instruction, support system, and inclusion of female teachers, primarily in outlying parts of Nepal. Our pedagogical focus should make girls opine, comment and debate on diverse topics without inhibition. Their social security should be ensured so that they can utilize their free time more creatively. The state has provided more opportunities to girls, like scholarships and legal inclusion, but the context that surrounds them is not encouraging enough for their academic achievement.

source:KHATI,ASHOK RAJ(2013)," Education of girl children-The silent half", republica,3 Sep 2013
The author is a teaching assistant at Tribhuvan University

photo courtesy:heifer12x12. wordpress.com

2013-09-03 | EducateNepal

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