Friday, Dec 12, 2003
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By Aarti Dhar
Maria Calivis of UNICEF handing over the report on The State of the World's Children: 2004 to the social activist and actress, Shabana Azmi, in New Delhi on Thursday. Lalita Kumari, the young tribal woman from Bihar who features on the cover of the report, is at centre. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
This appreciation has been reflected in the form of a young neo-literate tribal woman from Bihar being featured on the cover of the report. Lalita Kumari has been described as a role model who managed to overcome the obstacles that keep many like her out of school across the world.
Releasing the report here today, the UNICEF country representative, Maria Calivis, said that India's Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan provided for a policy framework, and the rising enrolment and attendance rates in schools reflected the high demand for education even among poor families.
However, schooling must be free of cost for all children as studies showed that high costs of education constitute an important reason for parents pulling out their children from school. "Therefore, there ought to be no financial burden whatsoever on families, especially poor families, for whom sending girls to school is a struggle entailing a heavy opportunity cost," Ms. Calivis said.
Also, a commitment must be made to provide quality education without discrimination between children in urban, rural and tribal areas, boys and girls and the rich and the poor. "To me, `not being interested' in studies is a reflection of the poor relevance of what is being taught," she said.
Ms. Calivis added:
"It is only when every girl receives quality education, as is guaranteed in the Indian Constitution, will the country be able to realise the enormous potential that exists for India to become a vibrant democracy, a thriving economy and a global leader.
"The report is being released against a backdrop of both hope and uncertainties of expanding economic opportunities and at the same time, increasing insecurities. On the one hand, globalisation, improvements in information and communication technologies and advances in science and technology are bringing peoples and nations closer to each other. At the same time, dominating the public discussions are issues of human insecurity, terrorism, joblessness among the poor and the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS. In this context, it becomes even more important to emphasise the importance of girls education for promoting human development, peace and security." According to the report, 121 million children worldwide were out of school, of which 65 million were girls.
"Strong evidence from across the world suggests that investing in girls' education is the most critical intervention for accelerating human development and for securing the future of children. Educating girls offers a vital opportunity to girls to dramatically alter the trajectory of their lives and end gender discrimination," Ms. Calivis said.
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