Incentives help bring back Odisha children to school

Incentives help bring back Odisha children to school

Incentives help bring back Odisha children to school

Priyanka Samal was a class IX student when her parents, both daily labourers residing on the outskirts of Cuttack in coastal Odisha, forced her to drop out of the school. The reason: they wanted the 16-year-old to get married and settle down.

But she is back in school now. The parents have stopped searching for a suitable match for her. She now aims to complete her matriculation with good marks. She also plans to go for higher studies and hopes that she will be able to convince her parents to send her to college once she performs well in the high school certificate examination.

The “turnaround” in the teenagers’ life has been possible thanks to the Odisha Girls Incentive Programme (OGIP), a joint effort of the Centre, the Odisha Government and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), to prevent dropouts and increase attendance rate among SC-ST (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes) girl students in high schools.

“The scheme has now become a major motivating factor for SC-ST girls to
attend classes and complete their high school studies. It has also become a source of encouragement for parents to allow their daughters to go for higher
education,” said Ashish Mukherjee of IPE Global Limited, a leading private sector development consultancy agency which is providing technical assistance for the successful implementation of the important social sector project.

The programme, which was formally launched in 2013 after a pilot project in tribal-dominated Rayagara district, is being implemented in all the 30 districts in Odisha. Nearly 2.15 lakh SC-ST girl students in classes IX and X in about 9,000 government-run as well as aided schools have been benefited from the scheme in the current academic year.  

The impact is certainly positive as there has been a 10 per cent increase in enrolment for SC girls and 6 per cent  increase for ST girls in class IX this year. “The rate of attendance among the girls, particularly tribals both in classes IX and X, has also recorded a substantial incre­ase,” said Mukherjee, who functions as the team leader of the technical assistance team for OGIP.   

Under the scheme, beneficiaries will have a bank account and Rs 3,200 per annum stipend will be directly transferred to their account if they attend 75 per cent or more classes. The payment will be made in monthly installments. The stipend is for day scholars only. For girls staying in hostels, Rs 5,450 per annum will be paid. 

Interestingly, the OGIP has already helped many girls who had dropped out of school and had got married early for various reasons to come back to their classes and finish their high school studies. A case in point is Mamata Dalai from Balasore district in north Odisha who was a very good student. She had been promoted to class IX and was eagerly waiting to join her new class. But she lost her father, the only earning member of the family. With his death all the dreams of Mamata came crashing down. The economic condition of the family deteriorated and Mamata’s mother thought it best to marry her off. She tried to convince her mother to let her continue studies but soon gave up as the woman threatened to commit suicide. The girl had to agree to the match fixed by her mother.

The block coordinator engaged in the implementation of the scheme tracked down Mamata with the help of her school records. He went along with the headmaster of the school and talked to her mother. Subsequently, he visited Mamata and talked to her mother-in-law as her husband had migrated to another state in search of work. The mother-in-law did not agree to send Mamata back to school as she was worried that there would be no one to take care of household chores. 

The coordinator then counseled her with the help of the headmaster and
explained the importance of girls’ education. He also spoke to Mamata’s husband over the phone and explained the scholarship scheme and how it will help his wife to complete her matriculation.

Finally, after repeated counseling,  Mamata’s husband and mother-in-law agreed to send her back to the school. Significantly, Mamata’s mother-in-law not only helped her in the household chores but also ensured that she attended school on a regular basis. The mother-in-law’s progressive approach fetched her appreciation from village elders and community.

The development made Mamata very happy as it helped in strengthening her relationship with her mother-in-law and ensured her new freedom as she became acquainted with the process of the bank and took care of the monetary matters of the household. “We have already come across nearly 1,400 such cases in different districts”, said a IPE Global official.

After its success among the girls, the scheme has now been extended to the
SC-ST boys too. This year, nearly 2.10 lakh boys have already been benefited from the programme. They, however, get less stipend compared to girls. For a day scholar, the amount is Rs 2,250 while a hosteller receives Rs 4,500 per annum.