A project in the severe gender disparity districts of Pali and Jalore in Rajasthan mobilises government schools to enhance the quality of education for girls

Mamta dropped out of school after Class VIII as the school in her village Jadri, located in Bali block of Pali district in Rajasthan, provided only primary education till Class VIII. The secondary school is almost three to four km away. Her parents disallowed her to walk that much distance.

“The girl used to attend our Bal Sabha. We got to know about her story and persuaded her parents to send her to school. I asked to her mother, who is a farmer, if she wanted Mamta to suffer the same way as she does when there are no rains and no harvest. I told her that if she had been educated, she could have taken up a job or set up her own business. Her parents were finally convinced,” says Meena Bhatti, a 41-year-old field worker, who has been associated with Educate Girls for about five years now. The very next day, Mamta, along with two of her friends from the neighbourhood, bought a bicycle and started riding to school together.

Educate Girls is an initiative to mobilise government schools to encourage girls’ education by leveraging existing community and government resources.

Under the programme, Mera Gaon, Meri Shiksha, theyouth are mobilised to spread awareness about girls’ education in Pali and Jalore districts of Rajasthan which are known to be suffer from severe gender gap. The cadre is called Team Balika.

Uma Garg, 21, from Pali, is a B.A. first year student and a member of Team Balika. She says, “When I was a child, I used to wonder why the young girls of my age living in my neighbourhood never went to school. This feeling later on motivated me to be part of this noble cause...We go door to door in order to encourage people to send their daughters to school. But the people would not allow their daughters to go to school saying that, eventually, they have to get married and therefore there was no point in educating them.”

Says Meena, “In Pali, girls are not allowed to step out of the house; they help in household chores or look after their younger siblings. This reduces their self-confidence. We counsel the girls by organising Bal Sabhas in order to equip them with life skills.”

Under the programme, a pilot project has been rolled out this year based on the Payment-by-Results (PbR) mechanism. It will be initially implemented in about 200 government schools in the Sirohi district.

PbR is an innovation in the financing of social services; unlike in traditional contracts, in PbR, the donor pays the service providers (NGOs) only if they achieve pre-determined social outcomes such as the baseline figures on enrolment, retention and learning outcomes as is the case in thisproject.

“Out of the 26 gender gap districts in India, about nine are in Rajasthan. Pali and Jalore are two of the most severe gender gap districts — the reason why we chose them for our project,” says Alexander Mette, fund-raising strategist, Educate Girls.

“We work in three key areas: enrolment, retention and improved learning outcomes. We train the existing school management committees in making the school infrastructure more girl-friendly like having separate toilets for girls. We train government teachers in child-centric creative learning and teaching techniques to ensure an increase in learning levels and outcomes,” adds Mr. Mette.

“We started with 50 government schools and now we cover over 5,000 government schools across Pali and Jalore,” says Safeena Husain, executive director, Educate Girls.