HYDERABAD: A two-year-long empowerment programme has helped as many as 600 girls aged 14 to 19 to appear for SSC examinations through Telangana Open School Society (TOSS), and escape the clutches of child marriage, reveals a report released on the International Day of the Girl Child on Friday. UNICEF, in association with Mytrah Energy Pvt Ltd and an NGO Mahita, had implemented the programme ‘Kala Mytrah’ in Borabanda, a densely-populated urban slum in Hyderabad.
According to the report, it was found over the last two years that a majority of girls could not continue secondary education due to the lack of public school for girls near their homes. As the few private schools around were expensive, only boys were sent there, while girls were asked to stay back at home. In Muslim families, girls were forced to discontinue their studies after reaching puberty, because of the absence of high schools in close vicinity. They were instead married off.
The programme, designed and implemented between April 2016 and December 2018, aimed at creating awareness among adolescents regarding their rights, equipping them with life skills, and also curbing child labour and child marriage by supporting them to complete secondary education. Bringing girls students in madrasas to the mainstream was another major aim of the programme. For this purpose, four adolescent resource centres (ARC) were set up in different locations of Borabanda area. Each ARC had two teachers and a project coordinator.
Alongside delaying the age of marriage for girls, the organisers also wanted to give them a second chance to clear the Class X examination. This also enhanced their employability. In fact, a desire to be independent and pursue further education or vocational courses had motivated many girls to join Kala Mytrah.
The programme covered almost 3,000 households spread over 30 slum localities within Borabanda, and collected comprehensive information regarding their education. After mobilising the girls, they were provided inputs on their protection, life skills and gender issues using the six set modules developed by UNICEF. Eventually, they were aided in registering with the TOSS. To ensure they performed well in the SSC exam, the girls were given training for six months. In addition, a three-month long bridge course was conducted at the start of the academic year. The survey found that students who had dropped out after Class VIII-IX and enrolled after two to three years had low learning levels, and could not cope with the Class X syllabus.
Bringing madrasas into the fold
The survey states that with advocacy at madrasas and involvement of parents, the number of madrasas under the programme doubled from 2 to 4 in two years. Madrasa students were also found to be more driven to clear the exam and use the certificate to enhance their earning capabilities