Scholarship Problems: The scheme that encourages high school girls to stay in high school is almost dead. The amount was very small and the process was difficult.
Budget 2022: Educators demand more money to give girls’ scholarships (Source: Shutterstock)
New Delhi: With the upcoming 2022 union budget, educators and activists are demanding that the government allocate much more to the girl child than it has been doing in the past few years.
Activists said that in light of COVID-19 and the recent cabinet decision to increase the age of marriage for girls, it is necessary for the central government to allocate more girls in secondary school in the upcoming 2022 federal budget to reduce dropouts and child marriage. .
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The Union budget for 2021, which followed the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw drastic cuts to education. Total educational expenditures for school education were reduced by more than Rs 5,000 crore and the country’s largest educational scheme, Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, saw a cut of nearly Rs 8,000 crore.
One of the most frequent victims of funding cuts has been the National Incentive Scheme for Girls for Secondary Education, a scholarship scheme for girls from Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.
The scheme, which was aimed at “reducing dropouts and promoting girls’ school attendance” among the marginalized castes and scheduled tribes, was allocated just Rs 1 crore for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
Budget cut for girls
As per the scheme, Rs 3,000 as fixed deposit is deposited in the bank accounts of eligible candidates which they can claim with interest on passing Class 10 and attaining the age of 18 years.
However, the central government has cut back on funds for the National Incentive Scheme for Girls for Secondary Education over the years. In 2017-18, the government spent over Rs 292 crore on the scheme. The allocation was reduced to approximately Rs 165 crore in 2018-19 and to just under Rs 9 crore in 2019-20.
With the big budget cuts, educators fear that the government may be looking to shut down the scholarship.
Officials and educators also noted that the grant amount was too low to provide any incentive for girls and that the government should allocate a much larger amount of money in the Federation’s 2022 budget to ensure the program was successful in keeping girls in school.
The grant is a deterrent amount
Some educators were of the opinion that the National Incentive Scheme for Girls for Secondary Education was “not important” in providing incentives for female students in these communities.
“This is an incentive scholarship in a very small amount. I don’t know what the incentive is given here. After four years, with at least five percent interest, they will get about 5,000 rupees. It’s a joke. How is this an incentive for secondary education when students don’t receive the amount during their education? But after they reach maturity.” said Aheli Chowdhury, co-founder of Joint Operation for Social Assistance (JOSH).
“The cost-benefit incentive is meaningless. A student may have to spend roughly the same amount for travel and other purposes required to get the scholarship. It does not help students today,” Choudhury said.
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State officials responsible for implementing the scheme have admitted that students in rural areas find it pointless to apply for a scheme that awards only a small amount as a scholarship.
“The amount is very little. Most of the students here are in rural areas and they have to walk several kilometers to get to the bank. They make no sense. TM Pyngrope, Nodal Officer at NSIGSE, Department of School Education and Literacy, Meghalaya, “So, many of them do not apply for the on the grant.”
Activists said that the system of saving money after students reach the age of 18 is counterproductive.
“Instead of spending Rs 6-7,000, the parents would marry them. The parents would rather spend no money at all on the baby girl than wait for her to be compensated. Even the boys drop out of school for this reason but it is more so for the girls,” Chaudhry said.
Competing Scholarship Programs
Some activists have also pointed out that the reduced funds may imply that fewer students choose the program and even that they choose other central or state schemes such as post-secondary scholarships and pre-mathematics scholarships for students from marginalized communities. This is not just for girls.
We should also look at whether there has been any increase in state scholarships. Because central grants are just a part of it. Therefore, we cannot definitively say that the government has reduced this feature without comprehensively looking at the budget,” said Renu Singh, Country Director of Young Lives India, a research and development consultancy focused on children, adolescents and youth.
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However, according to a report by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), more popular scholarships such as Post-Matric scholarships have also been underfunded over the years.
This, along with the bureaucratic procedures surrounding scholarships, means that a significant portion of students do not benefit from these scholarships.
“Even for post-secondary scholarships, fewer and fewer people apply due to the difficulty of the application process. Over the years, the allocation of funds for post-matric scholarships has also decreased,” Choudhury said.
Difficulties in obtaining scholarships
The activists also said that the process of benefiting from the scholarships is very difficult.
“Students are required to fill out ‘Know Your Customer’, linking bank accounts to Aadhar. Sometimes, scholarships are denied because their name is wrong or they have not linked their bank accounts to Aadhar.” said Yoman Hussain, CEO of Azad India, despite the extension Scholarship application deadlines two or three times, many students have missed the application.
“The corrections take a lot of time. It will take two or three months. The schools are supposed to send the students’ details to the district authority and don’t do it on time,” Hussain said.
Activists also said that due to opaque official procedures, students had to go without any scholarship in certain cases where they could choose either state or central scholarships, not both.
“In 2020, about 300 to 400 students from Kishangang, Bihar state, applied for the Ministry of Minority Affairs scholarship but the government canceled the whole process when there was a huge scam. Many students lost a scholarship that year. They couldn’t,” Hussain said. Even from applying for state scholarships because you can only benefit from one scholarship at a time, whether it’s state or central.”
Trouble with scholarships
In Uttar Pradesh, students are required to upload 11 separate digital documents to apply for the Post Secondary Scholarships. The documents then go through at least three levels of scrutiny.
“Not linking Aadhar and bank account is a classic problem of any DBT scholarship. When bank mergers took place in Uttar Pradesh, the details were not updated and the scholarship money for many students reached the bank but was returned,” Chaudhry said. .
Furthermore, they said, the state, colleges, and co-ed schools are not even trying to popularize the scheme or educate students about it. They said the problems are more pronounced for those who live in rural areas.
“You can imagine how difficult it is for students from SC-ST communities in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to apply digitally. They have to find access from somewhere. Moreover, every year they have to provide income certificate and course certificate. Students have to re-apply,” Chaudhry said. Every year, too.”
Federation Budget 2022: High School Funds
Activists said it is critical for the government to secure more funds for girls’ secondary education in light of recent events.
This has become even more important given the approval of the proposal to increase the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21 by the Council of Ministers. “It is imperative that the government allocate more money to support girls’ secondary education,” said Renu Singh.
“Not only scholarships but there is a need for more boarding schools for students, especially from SC/ST communities. We did a longitudinal study in Andhra Pradesh and it was very clear that these girls who were from very poor households were doing very well,” said Singh. very much after they enroll in boarding schools.
Impact of COVID-19 on girls’ education
Many female students were also reported to have dropped out of school and married during the pandemic, leaving them without any support system.
“What happened to girls in secondary education during the pandemic was pathetic. If you read the reports, you would know that many of them got married, many of them worked, and many of them were abused,” said Shanta Sinha, former president of the National Council for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) There was no system or protection for them.
The government should have promised 100 times more than it allotted. For students from the Adivasi communities, it was a big battle to get into high school. The system should do everything in its power to ensure that they remain in the system,” Sinha said.
Activists felt that the government was not spending enough on secondary education in general.
“You fund from ages 6 to 14. But after class 8, you focus on skill development. For most of these skill development courses, students have to pass grade 12. When they drop out even earlier, what have you achieved by focusing on skill development? Skills?” Chaudhry said.
NEP 2020, SSA, Gender Inclusion Fund
“Now they have integrated everything into the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. The SSA guidelines themselves are ambiguous. It is like saying ‘Let there be light’ but where will the light come from? It is not enough to say they will reduce dropouts. How are they going to achieve that?” Chaudhry asked.
The National Education Policy 2020 promised to establish a gender inclusion fund to promote gender equality. As of now, the chest exists only as promises. There is no clarification on whether such a separate fund will be created and for what it will be used.
In answer to Parliament’s question about the Gender Inclusion Fund, the Ministry of Education referred to the existing schemes in Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.
“Many of us tried to make demands linked to the Gender Integration Fund, to force the government to clarify the details of the allocations, but since the fund did not exist, we thought it would be unwise to make these demands linked to something that is linked to something,” Chaudhry said.
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