From Access to Attainment

Girls' Schooling in Contemporary India

Authored by: Manabi Majumdar

Gender and Education in India A Reader

Print publication date:  June  2021
Online publication date:  June  2021

Print ISBN: 9781032043579
eBook ISBN: 9781003191612
Adobe ISBN:


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A few years ago, in connection with a survey on school education in the town of Bhiwani in Haryana, we met a young girl, Nasreen. Her father is a blacksmith who owns a small roadside shop that doubles up as their home. Upon our request for a writing sample, Nasreen wrote in her beautiful handwriting that for various reasons she could not complete her school education, though she was very interested in her studies. In the course of a similar research in selected rural areas of West Bengal a couple of years ago, we got a chance to meet a little girl, Arpita, in a village primary school. Both her passion and proficiency in studies were clear to us. When we asked about her future dreams, a boy in her class retorted in a rather puzzled tone, ‘But she will get married!’ In rural Bengal a little over 60 per cent of adolescent girls are married off by the time they are eighteen years of age, or younger. In rural India the corresponding figure is 53 per cent. The little boy was just recounting the social reality he was familiar with. Such scepticism and hesitation about girls’ education reminds us of Tagore’s reflections on this issue:

Many people have a nagging suspicion about whether educating women will diminish their devotion to god or to their husbands. But the value of daylight is not simply to satisfy our day-to-day, practical needs, but to fulfil the more profound purpose of awakening. (Majumdar 2005: 201)

In the radiant faces of Nasreen and Arpita, we saw sparkles of an impulse for awakening (Majumdar 2008).

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