The conference, which was supported by Shikhar, highlighted the power of innovation in education. The focus was on the crucial role that media can play to create a sustained discourse, and highlight innovations that get more girls to school, keep them in school and improve the quality of learning for all children.
Evidence shows that even a single year of secondary school for a girl correlates with as much as a 25 per cent increase in her future earnings.
Despite the decreasing number of girls out of school, many around the world are still denied a quality education and a chance to reach their full potential.
In India, the number of out-of-school children stands at 8.1million, of which 4.5 million are girls. For every 100 boys enrolled, 88 girls are enrolled in secondary school. The main causes of school dropout among girls are child marriage and child labour.
"Investing in the education of girls, especially the most marginalised, is needed to make progress on most social indicators in India", said Urmila Sarkar, Chief of Education UNICEF.
Giving examples of how communities have arranged for safe school transport for girls in hard-to-reach areas from Udaipur, Rajasthan, she said: "Innovation in girls' education will be instrumental to female empowerment and breaking the cycle of poverty and deprivation."
Sarkar also highlighted the importance of gender sensitisation. Teachers who have undergone gender sensitisation training have made a significant difference for adolescent girls in schools. The participation of Muslim girls has improved in Madrasas of Malda district of West Bengal, where adolescent groups have been set up and trained. The girls now take up issues with the Panchayat to ensure entitlements reach the people.
The conference was chaired by top representatives of academia and media, Prof. Mohd Miyan, Vice Chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University and Director General, Doordarshan News, S.M. Khan.
They shared examples of how technology coupled with media outreach, has increased access to education for out-of-school girls and improved the quality of learning for every child.
They urged Urdu media to dedicate media space, and build capacities of reporters to highlight issues and innovations in education, especially of girls.
Civil society representatives from Shikhar, Prof Rihan Khan Suri and Ambarish Rai of the RTE Forum spoke on how civil society efforts can build on the momentum created by a conducive educational policy framework, and ensure that girls have access to quality learning environments.
Highlighting the crucial role of media, Caroline den Dulk, Chief of Communication and Advocacy, said: "Innovation can mean embracing new ways to overcome other barriers that keep girls out of school. Media, especially Urdu media which has the third largest readership after Hindi and English, can create a sustained dialogue on the diverse avenues available for girls to remain in school."
Innovation in other parts of the world is also helping to reach the hardest to reach children who are at the greatest risk of being out- of- school.
In Uganda, EduTrack is using SMS text messaging to connect students and schools with UNICEF, enabling them to report on learning, teacher quality, and violence in schools. In India, the Meena radio programme implemented in five states has developed a cadre of aware and empowered girls and boys in remote rural areas.
Elementary education in India has made significant progress over the past few decades.
The landmark passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India. For the first time in India's history, children are guaranteed their right to quality elementary education by the state with the help of families and communities.
The conference highlighted the need to strengthen collective action that civil society and private sector organizations can take to ensure that the education goals of India can be met.
--ANI (Posted on 07-11-2013)