On a day when the Supreme Court directed the Union and State governments to provide basic infrastructure, including drinking water and toilets, in all schools within six months, a survey conducted among parents (low-income group) in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore said that “toilets remain the single-most commonly voiced concern for girl students and their parents across India among the lower-income group.”

The secondary data of survey added that only 44 per cent schools covered by the Right to Education Act have separate, functioning girls’ toilets. In the rest, girls either need to risk embarrassment and run to nearby fields, or run back home to use the toilet.

“Chhattisgarh has only 20 per cent schools with usable girls toilets, while Jammu and Kashmir (22 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (23 per cent) fare only marginally better. The northeastern States, including Assam (27 per cent), have few schools that provide working toilets for girls,” said the policy analysis report released by NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) here.

India has 8.3 crore girls in the age group of 11-18 and they constitute 17 per cent of the total female population of 49.65 crore. The country, however, clocks a female literacy rate of only 53.87 per cent.

Stating that while the proportion of girls (aged between 11 and 14) who are still out of school declined from 6.8 per cent (2009) to 5.9 in 2010, the survey notes that the percentage of out-of-school girls (11-14 years) is still high in some States, including Rajasthan (12.1) and Uttar Pradesh (9.7), where the proportion has remained largely unchanged since last year.

“The situation is alarming when it comes to secondary education. The sharp drop in attendance among girls poses a big challenge and requires immediate attention. There are several reasons why children drop out of school and they are not necessarily the same or even if they are the same, they are of varying degrees for girls and boys,” says the survey.

Also early marriage, distance to schools and lack of transport, their having to do household chores and take care of siblings, lack of separate toilets for girls, unavailability of female teachers and lack of safety were found to be some of the important reasons why girls drop out of school.

“About one-third of girls drop out for all the above reasons put together. The survey also highlighted that while respondents want their girlchildren to be in school and receive education, several of them noted that the present transport system was not safe for the girlchild, girls get abused in school as well as on the way to school, separate toilets are vital for education of girlchild and almost all respondents noted that they wanted schools to have separate toilet for girls,” said CRY’s Volunteer Action director Yogita Verma speaking about the main survey titled ‘A rapid assessment of knowledge, attitude and practise (KAP) on prevalence of barriers to girl child education among lower income groups of society.’

In the survey, one in four respondents felt that an individual below 18 years is necessarily not a child while some noted that individuals should not be considered as a child if the individual is tall, can take of children, do household chores, cook food and work and earn.

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