When organisation CRY’s volunteers ventured into Surya Nagar in Kottur, they were not looking to conduct a conventional statistical survey.

Their survey, on education and the girl child, intended to delve into the ‘knowledge, attitudes and practices’ that gave a glimpse of the barriers to the education of a girl child, among lower –income groups.

The survey studied one slum in five metros, and 100 households in each of these were sampled. While 78.2 per cent respondents across five cities reported they had a girl child in their family, 92 per cent of these respondents said they sent their girl child to school.

While Chennai’s performance has been heartening in some areas, it has also raised some serious concerns in other areas, said John Roberts, general manager, programme division, CRY.

One out of every two respondents (parents) said they were not aware about the Right to Education Act and its provisions.

When respondents were asked whom they would define as a child, 3 per cent here said a person below the age of 18 was not a child to them. This percentage was higher in other metros, he noted.

In Chennai, only 10 per cent thought that education at the primary level was not free of cost, as parents had to spend on stationary and other requirements.

Also in Chennai, 90 per cent of the respondents said that more girls than boys were out of school in their locality. Reasons cited ranged from parents being anxious about the security of their daughters and families choosing to educate the boy over the girl.

Overall, 20 per cent said that they would give first priority to spending on education over food, clothes, entertainment or health. Close to 86 per cent in the locality were unaware about schemes for the girl child.

Bringing out gender prioritisations, 29 per cent said they would not mind sending only the boys in the family to school, if hypothetically, they were a family with three boys and two girls and had to make a choice about whom to send, Though 87 per cent said that girls should be married above the age of 18, 75 per cent said that married girls were not allowed to study.

Further, the study found that one out of two respondents knew that school going girls were getting married in their locality.

According to the survey, more than 4 per cent said that girls were abused in school. Importantly, 94 per cent highlighted that separate toilets were vital in schools.

The survey was conducted in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore and interviews were held based on a structured questionnaire.