Campaign to bring back at least four lakh girls who dropped out of school

New generation anganwadis to exclude 11-14-year-olds; focus shifting to 14-18-year-olds

Updated - March 08, 2022 10:02 am IST

Published - March 07, 2022 09:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The campaign to enrol girls back to schools will be undertaken by anganwadi workers in collaboration with district education officers.

The campaign to enrol girls back to schools will be undertaken by anganwadi workers in collaboration with district education officers. | Photo Credit: VISHNU PRATHAP

The Centre is launching a back-to-school campaign to bring at least four lakh young girls who are out of school into the formal education system.

Under the new Saksham Anganwadi scheme of the Women and Child Development Ministry, these 11-14-year-old girls will no longer receive anganwadi support, as the focus shifts to 14-18-year-olds, Women and Child Development (WCD) Secretary Indevar Pandey said at an event on Monday.

The campaign to enrol them into schools will be driven by anganwadi workers in collaboration with district education officers, supported by tracking systems used by the WCD and Education Ministries, he added.

A UNICEF survey of 50,000 Indian adolescents during the COVID pandemic, also released at the same event, reported that while 90% of respondents were currently enrolled in school, a third of them knew of at least one girl who had dropped out. The dropouts were either engaged in domestic work or had gotten married, said UNICEF India Representative Yasumasa Kimura. He added that at least a third of these girls wished to return to school, with respondents suggesting strategies to convince parents, to ensure girls' safety in school and on the commute, and to provide better awareness of Government programmes.

Mr. Pandey noted that the Government’s success in bringing adolescent girls into the school system could be seen in the sharp fall in dropout girls who are dependent on the anganwadi system for nutritional and skilling support. In 2018-19, there were 11.88 lakh girls aged 11-14 years who were part of the Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) in anganwadis, but this had dropped to 5.03 lakh by 2021. With the new Saksham Anganwadis set to pivot their focus to 14-18-year-olds from this year, it becomes imperative to ensure that the four lakh remaining 11-14-year-olds are absorbed by the school system, Mr. Pandey added.

Anganwadi workers would map the number of girls in each district and the list would be shared with the Education Department, whose local officials would then ensure that each girl was enrolled either directly in the school system or in vocational training programmes, skill centres or open schooling, explained Mr. Pandey. Data from the Education Ministry’s Prabandh portal and WCD Ministry’s Poshan tracker would be combined to monitor the status of each girl and ensure that none of them fell through the cracks.

The anganwadi workers would be given additional financial incentives ranging from ₹500 to ₹1000 to counsel adolescent girl dropouts in their anganwadis and ensure they were enrolled in schools.

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