In a bid to encourage education among girls, curb school dropout and child marriage, Jharkhand school education and literacy department would give free textbooks, uniforms and notebooks to all girl students studying in classes 9, 10, 11 and 12 from 2016 academic session, said officials on Sunday.
The initiative, an official said, was first in the country by any state and targeted to benefit around one million girl children studying in government high schools.
Since 2000, all Below Poverty Line (BPL), Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students up to class 8 have been receiving free uniforms and textbooks under the centre’s Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). Additionally, Jharkhand also gives free textbooks and uniforms to all the remaining students up to class 8 under state’s school education schemes.
“This is the first time that such a scheme has been launched for students of higher classes. By now, only students up to class 8 got such benefits,” said state school education and literacy secretary Aradhna Patnaik.
In fact, students only up to class 8 fall under the provisions of the Right to Education Act, 2009.
Under the scheme, Patnaik said, girl students from class 9 to 12 would get 10 notebooks, two sets of uniform and all textbooks at the beginning of the academic session every year. The fund for running the scheme would be given to the respective School Management Committees (SMC), she said.
The state will sanction Rs 600 for two sets of uniform, Rs 750 for notebooks and Rs 950 for textbooks for each girl student every year, a source in the department said.
“The initiative is expected to curb dropout of girl children and also curtail child marriage to an extent,” he said.
School dropout has been a concern in Jharkhand.
In 2014, 20% of 15 to 16 year-old children were out of school according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).
Child marriage, too, has been a problem. According to a United Nations Survey in 2013, 36% girls in Jharkhand were married before 18 years and 32.3% boys before 21 years.
Jharkhand, however, has been on a mission to improve education facilities for girl children and fight the social problems by empowering them. Not only did the state initiate construction of colleges for women in the 11 districts that did not have women’s colleges, it also constructed new hostels for school girls in 76 blocks of the state this year.
Out of the 260 blocks in Jharkhand, 203 already have Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBV) -- residential schools for girls. Construction of residential schools in the remaining 57 blocks has begun, officials said.
CM’s Vidya Laxmi Yojna, a fixed deposit scheme for girl students was also launched this year to curb dropout of girls from schools.
Moreover, the higher education department claimed the state would soon get its first Women’s Engineering College in Ramgarh for which a budget of `96.72 crore has been sanctioned.