Primary education minister Vasudev Devnani’s recent announcement to distribute 2.5 lakh cycles among school girls across Rajasthan has failed to impress educationalists as they believe that security concerns and distance are the biggest reasons behind the high dropout rate among girls.
“Encouraging girls’ education is our first priority and I hope that by December, we will be able to provide a cycle to every girl student in the state,” said Devnani on Tuesday that around 2.5 lakh free cycles will be distributed among girl students till December 13.
Also, girl students who do not opt for a cycle and reside 5 kilometers away from their school will get a transport voucher of Rs 20 every day.
However, educationalists believe that distributing cycles among girl students is not sufficient to enable a safe environment for parents to send them to schools.
According to an independent report prepared by educationalists using District Information System for School Education (DISE) and other data, the dropout rate among girls at primary level was at 8.39% compared to 7.76% in boys.
“Yes, the cycle distribution scheme will have some effect on girls’ enrollment percentage but it’s the mindset and environment of the society which needs to be changed. Every day, we hear stories of crime against women and girl children in Rajasthan. Until, the state is able to provide a fearless environment for girl students, there cannot be a major change,” said Viswambhar, an educationalist.
Educationalists further believe that the merger of 17,000 schools in 2014 had adverse effects on students of disadvantaged background as the increased distance between their homes and the new schools caused high dropouts.
“Such schemes used to exist earlier as well but it is important that these schemes are run efficiently. Safety is the biggest concern among parents of girl students and administration must ensure that girls don’t ride cycles to school alone,” said Shobhita Rajgopal, professor, Institute of Development Studies.
The independent survey report also presents a rise in dropout cases among Muslim girls as their annual average dropout rate at upper primary level was at 22.90% compared to that of Muslim boys being at 18.77%
“Distribution of cycles and transport voucher is nothing but a political tool used by the government. They need to ensure that the minority section feels secured while travelling in public places. It is better if the government provides stipends instead of cycles and appoint two home guards in front of each school”, said Ameen Kayamkhani, patron, Rajasthan Madarsa Education Helpers Association.
However, Devnani believes that paying stipends is not an efficient method as the money is usually spent by the parents.
“The earlier government had distributed Rs 2,500 to each girl so that they could buy cycles. But they ended up giving that amount to their parents. I sincerely believe that our cycle scheme will drastically improve the scenario of girls’ education in the state,” said Devnani.