Why girls in India are still missing out on the education they need


India is no longer considered a poor country and yet many children do not receive a good education. Rachel Williams reports

Meena (not her real name) didn’t tell her parents when the older boys started harassing her on the hour-long walk to school from her home in Madanpur Khadar, south Delhi – grabbing her hand and shouting “kiss me” – because she knew she would get the blame, as if she had somehow encouraged them. She was right: when her family found out, they banned her from going back to school, worried about the effect on their “honour” if she was sexually assaulted. The plan now is to get her married. She is 16.

Gulafsha is luckier: her mother is determined she will become a doctor. But there are 70 pupils in a class at her school, and the teachers often simply don’t turn up. The drinking water tanks are so filthy the pupils bring their own water. “I have never gone to a toilet at school in all these years, they are so bad,” the 14-year-old says. She doesn’t know how, but somehow her mother saves 900 rupees a month to pay for private tuition in three subjects.

Sumen, 35, is battling for her child’s future, too. Her nine-year-old son has learning disabilities and she has tried and failed to get him into school every year since he was old enough. Finally, the authorities have agreed he should get some education, but it’s only for one day a week. Sumen, a domestic help who never went to school herself, wonders if she should have tried to teach him at home: “But if I haven’t studied, how much could I do for him?”

Four years ago, the World Bank upgraded India from a “poor” country to a middle-income one. As commentators were at pains to point out in November, when the UK announced it would end aid to India from 2015, the country has a space programme, 48 billionaires and its own aid budget. Under its Right to Education (RTE) Act, passed in 2009, a free and compulsory education is guaranteed for all children aged between six and 14, and the most recent figures for primary school enrolment stand at an impressive-sounding 98%.

Written By: Rachel Williams
continue to source article at guardian.co.uk


  1. India’s situation is in some ways like that of the US: sure, they technically have lots of money per person, but they concentrate so much of it at the top that, for the overwhelming majority, it may as well not be there. The Indians miss out on education for girls; the Americans miss out on health coverage for the poor. This is why, if you absolutely must classify countries as “poor”, “middle-income” or “rich” based on money alone, you should at least adopt something more informative than the mean, such as the median, or (even this would be an improvement) the mean among the poorest 99 %.

  2. If having a filthy rich elite makes a country not poor, then there are no poor countries i guess.

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