Everything passes. It has to. That's the beauty and tragedy of it.
In a patriarchal society such as that of India, the place of the woman is still deemed to be in the hearth, and familial obligations, her main responsibility. The male is considered to be the sole bread winner and hence his education is always prioritized over that of his female relative. In such a situation, the girl student is often at a gross disadvantage from the very start.
The Indian education system, modeled after the British education system, is divided into primary (the first 5 years), secondary (the next 2 years) and higher secondary (The final 2 years post matriculation) programme. Thereafter, the next 3 years is charted for a graduation degree in science, arts and commerce. The schooling system allows both public and private entities to impart education to all children, irrespective of their social-economic status or gender. Moreover, with child labour having been condemned as a punishable offence, all children from the age of 5 to 14 have the right to avail free and compulsory education by law. Even with such latitude, the female student is not benefited in maximum cases due a number of issues, the least being the prevailing social stigma against educated women.
Most of the schools in the predominantly rural to developing urban areas are government run. In most villages and rural areas, poor socio-economic conditions and lack of awareness forces most families to keep their girl children away from schools. Lack of basic infrastructure and sanitation facilities also prevents girls from attending schools and largely contributes towards increased mid-term drop-outs. In most cases, there are no separate toilets for girls and boys in the government run school premises. Girl students are either forced to share the single available toilet with boys or are put in an unbearably embarrassing situation where there are no toilets at all and they have to relieve themselves in the open.
In addition, the apathetic attitude of regulatory authorities and teacher absenteeism in rural, government run schools contribute greatly to a faulty education system. At the primary level, the pupil to teacher ratio is largely disproportionate. On an average the ratio ought to be 35:1 but the lack of properly trained, skilled and dedicated teachers shows a different reality.
Although the nature of education is somewhat progressive in urban, privately run schools, these are targeted at mostly affluent or middle class families with a certain earning capacity and not accessible to all. While the number of girls attending schools in towns and cities is comparatively higher than that of rural areas, the urban schooling system also has its own share of social evils that threaten the girl student. The lack of security for female students and alarming increase in student rape cases across the country highlights the flagrant flaws in the education system.
What the country needs today is not just a better education system, but an overhaul in the way the society generally views the female child. Parents need to view their daughters not as financial burdens but as children who deserve equal rights. The government must bring about stronger education reforms, and enforce laws to protect the female student. Schools must be made accountable for the general well-being of their students while in the school premises. Teachers need to be selected on the basis of merit through standard qualifying examinations similar to other professional institutions as well as undergo periodic training programmes to clear levels in a professional manner. Government should ensure suitable monetary incentives for teaching staff so that they remain dedicated to their charge without playing truant or resorting to bribery. In addition, there needs to be strict guidelines and standardization of regulations for all individuals directly or peripherally associated with the education system.
In a world where women have proven themselves in all arenas professional and personal, it is only natural and fair to provide girls with equal educational opportunities so that they can remain confident, fend for themselves and their families as well as be the pride of their nation. Given the chance, women have been known to have the strength to not just run families but entire corporations. It all begins with the right education at the grass roots level. It is time to break out of our shackles and move forward into a future where boys and girls have not just the right to equal education but real freedom to pursue their dreams. Only then can a society be considered civilized and progressive in the actual sense.