Focus on girl child at education meet
New Delhi, December 18:
THE key to achieving universal education in South Asia lies in focussing on the social, cultural and economic barriers that prevent many girls from going to primary school, said experts today at a three-day international conference on education held at Bahai House.
‘‘A large number of children in the South Asian region are out of school,’’ said Erma Manoncourt, representative of the UNICEF in India, noting that there are around 43 million such children, and that the majority — some 26 million — of them are girls.
‘‘It is only by increasing the enrolment and retention of girls that we can achieve the goal of universal education,’’ said Manoncourt addressing a group of around 150 representatives from government and non-government organisations at the conference on ‘Education: The Right of Every Girl and Boy’.
‘‘Education is a fundamental right,’’ said Jaskaur Meena, Minister of State for Women and Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resources Development. In the South Asian region, some 40 per cent of children in primary school drop out before reaching Grade 5, half the population lives in severe poverty, leading to a low enrolment rate, and the quality of education in rural schools is poor, she added.
The minister said that India, nevertheless, is committed to providing education for all and, to this end, has launched a programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which aims to provide quality basic education to all by the year 2010.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said yesterday that the country must work harder to overcome cultural preconceptions which lead to discrimination against girls and prevent them from attending school.
‘‘We are supposed to be a country of wise men. Yet, we are one of the most illiterate countries in the world,’’ said Dikshit. ‘‘We still have states where the girl child is killed before being born.’’ She added, ‘‘My grocer carries a cellphone, but does not think the girl at home needs to be educated. We must make education a habit.’’
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