By Saadia Azim
Sunday, March 6, 2011
As part of a push to help its schoolgirls, India's Bihar state gives a bicycle to every one with good attendance who reaches eighth grade. Officials say this and other efforts have helped lower girls' drop-out numbers by 1.5 million in five years.
The program issues a check directly to the young women whose schools function as auditors by helping them to open savings accounts and ensuring they deposit the correct amount. A purchase-of-sale receipt must go to the ministry. Many girls have added their own money to buy better bikes.
However, the financing system doesn't always go according to plan.
"There have been instances when the girl's family has used the funds for some other exigency," said Bilkis Jahan, principal of one of the high schools in the program. "Nothing much can be done in this regard, seeing the impoverished backgrounds of these students.
Dayashankar Tiwari, a principal in another school served by program, says it has lowered truancy.
"Earlier, parents had an excuse not to send their daughters to class, but now I have noticed that there is more than 90 percent attendance, which is very unusual," Tiwari said.
Gulfishan Perween, a social activist, says the program is a major sign of change for Bihar. "Parents who could not afford transportation for their girls' schooling now boast of the independence their daughters are enjoying."
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Saadia Azim is a Hindi TV journalist based in Kolkata, India, and is working with Sahara India TV Network. She was a regular contributor for Voice of America Hindi Radio Service and contributes coverage of women and development issues from Eastern India for various newspapers, Web sites and blogs.
This article is adapted from one that was released by the Women's Feature Service. For more articles on women's issues log on to: http://www.wfsnews.org
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