CM Nitish Kumar was speaking at an event titled ‘Tarang’ at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan

With a view to boost girls’ education and stem the dropout rate in higher classes, the Bihar government will distribute sanitary napkins in State-run schools, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said at an event titled ‘Tarang’ at Gandhi Maidan on Thursday.

“Free sanitary napkins will be given every month to every girl in secondary and higher secondary schools. The government has earmarked Rs.32 crore a year for this scheme. To foster cleanliness, dustbins will be provided for disposal of napkins,” Mr. Kumar said.

The government is hoping to roll out the scheme by April, when the next academic year begins. “The estimated cost is around Rs.100 per girl for a year. We are planning to tie up with local self help groups to manufacture sanitary napkins. The scheme will cover girls from Class seven to Class 12,” Amarjit Sinha, principal secretary, Education, told The Hindu.

Self-defence classes

At the event, as per the government’s estimate, nearly 10,000 girls from government schools, under the age of 14, demonstrated their skills in judo and karate. A year ago, Mr. Kumar had urged girls to learn self-defence techniques in the wake of crimes against women.

On Thursday, he called for imparting martial arts training to under-17 schoolgirls as well.

“Such martial art demonstrations should be organised in every district, so that people can become aware. It will also send out a message of women’s empowerment to those who think they can get away with harassing women.”

Mr. Kumar said Bihar had taken great strides in improving the enrolment of both boys and girls. With a reduced percentage of out-of-school children, it was time to focus on quality of education and encouraging children to pursue higher education, he said.

“The percentage of out-of-school children has been reduced from 12.5 per cent to 2 per cent. We have laid special stress on girls’ education. We saw that the enrolment of girls in primary school was nearly equal to the enrolment of boys, but from secondary school onwards the dropout rate of girls was high. Owing to poverty, they did not have proper clothes to wear and lacked access to basic facilities. To address this issue, the government started the uniform scheme and the cycle scheme, which have been effective in enrolling girls in schools. In the last five to six years, the number of girls in Class 9 has jumped from 1.7 lakh to over 7 lakh,” Mr. Kumar said. The schemes were extended over time to cover both girls and boys.

Mr. Kumar said the government has decided to set up one higher secondary school in every panchayat to facilitate education till Class 12.

“This year, we plan to set up 1,750 higher secondary schools. Tenders have been invited for building 1,541 schools; work has begun on 550 buildings,” he said.