Sponsors are not usually inclined to bear the hostel expenses too

Kavitha (name changed), a single mother, works as a daily labourer. She lives in a slum with her daughter, a good student, whose college education is willing to be sponsored by a NGO. But Kavitha does not want to send her daughter because she fears for her safety. The woman is willing to send her daughter to college only if she can stay secure in a hostel. The catch here is that the college hostels and other private hostels are not affordable for her.

“Money is no longer a constraint for girls from economically weaker sections to pursue higher education with many philanthropists willing to sponsor their education. The hurdle is, however, the lack of a safe place for them to stay while studying. All sponsors are not usually inclined to bear the hostel expenses too, and even if they do, all the beneficiaries cannot be accommodated in the existing hostels,” says T. Sampathkumar, Managing Trustee of ‘Save Our Daughters India’ movement that sponsors education of girls.

Girls, whose parents are out the whole day working to earn a day’s meal, or those with a single parent in the same situation, are preferred to be married off on attaining the marriageable age. This is because the parent is not able to ensure the girl’s safety on her return from college. She remains alone in some run-down area of the city till the elder of the house returns from work.

Free hostels

With more and more girls from such background showing interest in pursuing higher education, the lack of free hostels is becoming a serious issue. Except for the two free hostels run by the State Government for Backward Classes / Scheduled Caste college-going girl students, there is none where college girls can stay free of cost.

Sathya Ammaiyar Ninaivu Arasu Kuzhanthaigal Kaapagam is the Government-run free hostel for girls till Standard XII. After repeated representations, the Government has permitted girls of the hostel to continue till they complete graduation. This year, all 14 girls from the ‘Kaapagam’ who cleared Plus-Two are opting to stay behind to continue college education. Their educational expenses are borne by ‘Save Our Daughters India’ because the State Government only pays the college fee of those who have scored 700 / 1200 and above in Plus-Two.

But those who wish to join at the level of graduation are not permitted to do so and hence this facility cannot be extended to them.

The same is the case with other private hostels too that provide free shelter, food and education to those at the school level.

To mention a few, the ‘Seva Nilayam’ and ‘PSGG Kanya Gurukulam hostel’ provide these facilities to girls till Standard XII.

Even the Government Arts College, Coimbatore, does not have a hostel for girls. “Since the college was initially established as a boys’ college, it does not have a separate one for girls. After repeated representations by the college management, the University Grants Commission has sanctioned Rs. 80 lakh for construction of a girls’ hostel, which is expected to house at least 100 girls in the first phase.

Girls from this college and other colleges, who belong to the BC, MBC or SC communities, stay in the free hostels of the Government. However, this is not an option for girls from other communities,” says Controller of Examinations of the college K. Shanmuga Sundaram.

Girls, who opt for aided courses do not find it a burden to pay the annual fee as it is very less compared to the self-financing courses. But the monthly hostel fee works out to approximately Rs. 4,000 a month, which turns out to be expensive for them.

While the long-term solution can be seen in individuals / NGOs establishing free hostels, the immediate answer can come in the form of the existing private free hostels taking in deserving college-going girls in addition to the school-going ones.

More In: Coimbatore