Although almost all children aged 6-14 years go to school in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country, many adolescents, especially girls, do not reach or complete secondary education. While there are several reasons for this, , one of the main reasons is that many parents do not value secondary education for their children, especially their daughters, and feel that secondary education is not relevant for them. However, there are not enough programmes that try to change parents’ attitudes toward secondary school
completion by daughters and make parents more involved in their daughter’s secondary education.
The Population Council, New Delhi, in partnership with the Centre for Health Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA), Ahmedabad, Awas de, Ahmedabad and M.V. Foundation, Hyderabad, is planning to design and test a programme that aims to improve adolescent girls’ enrolment and retention in secondary school and improve their learning outcomes in Gujarat. Its specific objectives are to:
To meet these objectives, the consortium proposes to implement an intervention programme that comprises:
The consortium will form Village Education Committees (VECs) or revitalize the committees (if these committees already exist) in the villages as well as identify girls who will
act to motivate parents to educate their daughters, and motivate girls to continue their schooling beyond primary level. It will conduct training workshops to sensitize members of the VEC and girl advocates. The project will also strengthen the capacity of members of VECs to effectively interact with schools and make sure that systems for the transfer of students from primary schools to secondary schools are made easy for parents, and with government departments to access government funds available for infrastructural improvements in schools.
The members of the VEC and group of selected girls, with the support of the consortium, will hold public meetings and girl to girl campaigns about the importance of secondary education. Awareness raising activities will also include engaging prominent community and religious leaders to speak in favour of girls’ secondary education in public forums, and public promises by groups of parents that state that they will make sure that their daughter successfully completes at least Class 10.
The consortium will prepare a list of schemes related to children’s entitlements from schools and share this with adolescent girls and their parents through the village level committees so that parents can draw on these schemes to help with their daughter’s education.
The project will establish a mechanism for safe transportation of adolescent girls to and from the school.
The project will establish an easy-to-use interactive voice response system (an automated phone system) to improve channels of communication between adolescent girls and their parents on the one hand and the schools on the other. The system will be able to receive voice messages from the schools, parents and VECs and broadcast these messages to teachers, schools and parents, as appropriate. The system will be administered by a dedicated project staff member housed in CHETNA.
The intervention programme will be implemented over a period of 15 months in five randomly selected groups of villages in Surendranagar district of Gujarat; each group of
villages will include five villages surrounding a secondary school, as well as the secondary school and the primary schools in these villages. In other words, the intervention programme will be tested in 25 villages and primary and secondary schools serving these villages.
The intervention programme will focus on girls in the last year of primary school (Class 8) and the first year of secondary school (Class 9) and their parents, as well as teachers in primary and secondary schools and the wider community, notably village leaders and elected representatives. The project will reach approximately 4,000 girls and their parents.
The consortium will undertake an evaluation of this intervention, using a cluster randomised controlled trial, to assess whether the programme could be implemented as proposed, whether it is acceptable to adolescent girls and their parents, and whether there has been any impact of the programme on increasing enrolment of girls in secondary school, improving the regularity of girls’ attendance at school, and enhancing learning outcomes in mathematics and languages (Gujarati and English) among girls.
If the programme is successful, the consortium would like to return to the government of Gujarat with ideas about how to replicate the programme throughout the state.