By Anil Gulati
25 October, 2006Countercurrents.org
Just a few months’ back Divya, Madhu and Asmita were strolling in the lanes of Bhopal searching for polybags from the city dustbins. It is like character of story on the lives of girls who live in the slums near Bhopal station. But fortunately today, all three are in school.
Divya, one of them is ten years old. She is studying in the first class of the primary school at Bajaria, a place near Bhopal railway station. Though, she and many like her call it as ‘Chotta habibya school’, in their own words. It is her first year at school; she never had been to school earlier. Thanks to the efforts of Renu, a social worker with a non governmental organisation, which runs the child welfare center for working (street) children who had motivated girls like Divya and her parents to send her to school.
Divya is eldest of her five brother and sisters. Few days back when her mother delivered her third sister she cried, probably it was her way of expressing. May be she did not wanted her sister to suffer as she did?. Divya is not alone, Madhu is her class mate. She used to pick rags and earn for her family. Both of them are in school today. School has admitted them in the lower class not as per their age but Renu, the social worker has better hopes. She optimistically shares that ‘We are working with them and both of them are doing well in studies, may be school will take them to higher classes soon’.
But Priya was not lucky as both of them. She was in school and was doing well in studies. She dropped out when her mother died, as had developed some complications during delivery. Since then she is at home and is taking care of her siblings. She loves to come to the centre as it gives her some enjoyment, and also can meet some of her old friends. There are many like hers who are either working or supporting their families and are taking care of their siblings while their parents work. Life is not at all easy. In the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, more than two lakhs girls are either out of school or have dropped out at elementary level. Though state is doing their bit which when complemented by the efforts of non governmental organizations can help many like Divya and Madhu to go to school which helps add some colour on to the canvass of their lives.
These efforts might be small and localized by one non governmental organisation in Bhopal. But it is not in Bhopal alone efforts of getting girls into school are being undertaken by many civil society organizations and states all over India. May be time has come to strengthen and replicate efforts, at a pace much faster then the present if we wish to accomplish the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) number two and three which state that we need to ensure that all girls and boys get a complete course of primary schooling by 2015 and eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015. These goals are part of the blue print agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions.
(All views expressed in this article are personal opinion of the contributor)