|© UNICEF India/2004|
|A girl child in class in Gujarat|
NEW DELHI, India, 22 June 2004 – Around 26 per cent of India’s girls between the ages of 6 to 14 are not in school. The western state of Gujarat, which has a population comparable to that of Ukraine, accounts for a large proportion of this percentage with more than 40 per cent of its women being illiterate.
"India is taking part in UNICEF's "25 by 2005" campaign to eliminate gender disparities in primary education by 2005. The campaign, which includes eight countries in Asia, focuses where girls' enrollments are furthest behind – and where progress would make a significant impact on the global goals of enrolling all children in school, girls as well as boys.
During a massive enrolment drive last week, nearly 140,000 children, including more than 68,000 girls, were enrolled in schools across the villages of Gujarat.
The drive, which was officially inaugurated by the state’s chief minister on 14 June 2004 with a three-day special campaign for girls’ education, is part of the state government’s strategies to address a continuing gap in male-female literacy rates: only 58.6 per cent women of Gujarat are literate as against 80.5 per cent of men there.
The campaign was received with tremendous enthusiasm and interest.
|© UNICEF India/2004|
|Children welcoming children in Gujarat classroom|
Children themselves held rallies in villages to help spread the word about the enrolment drive. Oath-taking ceremonies were also held, where village education committee members and parent and teacher associations pledged their support to the cause of enrolment and the regular attendance of children in schools.
The UNICEF office supported the state government in planning the enrolment drive and in producing communication material (including posters and oath certificates) for the campaign. UNICEF officers also visited villages with low female literacy rates to monitor and facilitate campaign-related activities
Gujarat is one of India’s most prosperous states with a per capita income of US$ 507, but does poorly in terms of female literacy.
Although the state has been conducting enrolment drives for the past few years targeting both boys and girls, the emphasis has shifted particularly to the enrolment of girls since 2003 when the Census (2001) found that the decadal growth rate of female literacy for Gujarat (7.8 per cent) was far lower than the national average (14 per cent).
State ministers, members of the state assembly and senior government officers were among those who took lead roles in the enrolment drive. Following a directive from the state chief minister, these officers fanned out to more than 2,000 villages where female literacy levels are below 20 per cent to persuade village elders and families send their girls to school and to help retain them there.
UNICEF’s work in India