Poverty, inadequate school infrastructure and distance from schools are factors that limit access to education for most children. However, in situations where all children face such barriers, more boys than girls go to school.
This qualitative research by Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT) explores the barriers that are keeping large numbers of girls out of schools and the enablers that highlight the benefits of higher education for girls.
As part of the Samata programme, the study aims to increase secondary school enrolment, retention and completion rates among girls from scheduled castes and tribes (SC/ST) in Bagalkot and Bijapur Districts in northern Karnataka. Researchers conducted 55 in-depth interviews with adolescent girls in and out of school, their families and teachers and members of School Development Management Committees (SDMCs) to seek answers for the following questions:
- What are the reasons for this disparity?
- What barriers keep girls away from school?
- Are there factors that enable them to attend school?
- Low value for education and peer group influence dissuade girls from attending school
- Parents perceive the costs of educating daughters as wasteful expenditure
- Inadequate infrastructure, low quality of education and unfavourable experiences, such as caste discrimination, discourage girls from going to school
- Parents want to avoid the perceived risk of daughters’ relationships with other men
- Girls and parents fear the lack of safety during the daily walk to school
- Norm of early marriage causes girls to drop out of school
- Teachers who teach well and encourage girls motivate them to continue in school
- Girls with an interest in education and strong work aspirations continue in school
- Family support and an enabling environment at home are critical
- Supportive peers create a positive school going experience
- Opportunities in school to develop talents outside of academics encourage girls
Call to Action
In order to achieve more enablers that outweigh the barriers, this research update recommends:
- the involvement of multiple stakeholders (girls, their families, teachers, communities and boys) in overcoming the barriers to education for girls
- addressing negative gender norms among adolescent girls and boys and their families and creating positive norms
- building girls’ sense of agency, their confidence, self-esteem, leadership and decision-making
- recognising and rewarding girls and families who have overcome barriers to complete schooling
- providing gender training for teachers
- strengthening schools’ capacities to be responsive to girls’ needs and supportive of their success