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School Has Been a Right for Girls in India Since 2009. So Why Aren’t They Going? Time, 27 June 2019

Neha is only 11 years old — and should be in school. In August 2009, when she was around one year old, the Indian parliament had passed the landmark Right to Education Act that made education free and compulsory for children between the ages 6 and 14. Neha’s parents enrolled her in school when she was six, but she dropped out four years later, before completing elementary school. She had to help her mother with housework and look after her younger siblings, Palak and Sunny. “My brother and sister are very small. My grandmother is old and ill. If I don’t help my mother, she will not be able to manage especially during harvest season when she goes to the fields at 4 am to help my father,” Neha tells me. It will be a decade in August since the Indian Parliament passed the Act. In 2010, when the act was implemented, TIME asked: “School is a Right, But Will Indian Girls Be Able to Go?” The skepticism was hidden in the question. The skepticism is now a fact, backed by statistics. What the RTE has achieved — as we had predicted in 2010 — is that it has brought girls back to schools (even if it’s been hard to keep them there.) In 2006, 10.3 percent of girls between the ages of 11 to 14 were out of school. In 2018 the figure stood at 4.1 percent, a significant decline. In 2018, 13.5 percent of girls between the ages 15-16 were out of school, as opposed to more than 20 percent in 2008, According to the 2018 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) released in January this year. But the RTE failed to acknowledge, and therefore address, the most pressing reason why girls have been unable to go to school in India: housework. The RTE has no provision for banning housework or agricultural work for children. As their mothers step out to work — in the informal sector or as farmers or agricultural laborers — to substantiate the family income, underprivileged girls like Neha are shouldering the burden of care and housework. In a report last year, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had said around 40 percent of 15 to 18-year-old-girls were out of school and among them almost 65 percent were engaged in household work.

1. Why is the story of Neha told ?
2. Is the journalist’s conclusion totally negative ?
3. How do you feel about the situation described ?

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