Activists urge govt to create safe spaces for girls and fund education

Activists urge govt to create safe spaces for girls and fund education
Source: Shutterstock Atul Krishna | Sep 22, 2020 - 3:23 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: Child rights activists, during a webinar on girls’ education on Tuesday, urged the government to help create safe spaces for girls by connecting through the educaton system to safeguard them from child marriage, child labour or abuse during the pandemic.

Activists suggested that the government ensure “home visits and telephone communication between teachers and students “to support learning and keep girls connected to the school”.

The webinar held by the Right to Education(RTE) Forum, a not-for-profit organization for children’s education, focused on disadvantages faced by girl students as they are “more vulnerable” during the pandemic.

The forum released a national fact sheet on girls’ education, which was launched by Priyank Kanoongo, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

Meanwhile, the NCPCR has launched a dedicated helpline for addressing children’s grievances during the pandemic. chairperson Priyank Kanoongoo revealed during the webinar .

Unequal internet access

Activists said that in the current system, there is unequal access to education mediated by technology as girl students are more likely to not have internet access, especially in the rural areas.

The forum, in the fact sheet, highlighted that: “Prevailing norms mean that girls are often the least likely members of the household to access the internet, and the unequal burden of domestic and care work that girls shoulder creates additional barriers to access distance learning.”

It also suggested that the government “provide daycare and early childhood care services” to reduce the burden of older siblings so that they can focus on education. It further suggested the hiring and training of more female teachers to increase the retention of girl students in education.

Activists also pointed out that female teachers “may face the additional burden of childcare and managing household chores” during and after the pandemic thus increasing their chance of leaving the profession.

The forum also urges both state and central governments to ensure that “teachers, parents and community actors have the knowledge and skills to deal with instances of gender-basedviolence” to “prevent sexual exploitation and abuse”.

Reduced funds for education

Activists also criticised the government for not allocating enough budget for education during the pandemic.

“The Ministry of Education has pushed the expenditure budget to category C (non essential). The government’s stand is confusing as on one hand it is recommending reopening schools should reopen. But not on the other hand not spending enough on education,” said one of the panellists.

According to reports cited in the factsheet, the Ministry of Education has deprioritised education to a Category C expenditure, the lowest classification, thus restricting expenditure to within 15% of that budgeted for the first two quarters in 2020-21.

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