On 17th June, all the roads led to Dabkhal, a remote village located 400 kms away from the state capital, in the tribal hinterland of Kaprada taluka of Gujarat.
Dabkhal was all decked up to receive a special guest. A stream of posters, banners and hoardings were put up along side of the dusty road with messages like “Educate girls – they are our assets”, “Development of the village lies in the education of both boys and girls”, and so on. A sea of people, men and women, young and old, adolescents and children waited anxiously for their special guest, the Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr. Narendra Modi, who was visiting this predominantly tribal region for the first time to kick off the enrollment drive for girls’ education.
Gujarat is one of the most economically developed states in India. However, as per 2001 Census, it had a female literacy of 58.6% only and ranked low among the states in terms of female literacy.
So as to give a boost to primary education, especially for girls, the Government has embarked upon state-wide enrollment drives for the last three years, which has helped in not only increasing the enrollment of children in the school, it has also led to reduction in the drop out rates from 48% in 1997-98 to 11.82% in 2005-06.
A three-day state-wide enrollment campaign was flagged off by the Chief Minister. He explained to the people of Dabkhal village that he had specially come to this remote tribal area of Kaprada as it figured among the most backward blocks in the state. He urged the people of this region to join the “noble” movement of educating all children, especially girls in the state.
"The Government has already provided for a school in every village and teachers were also available. Now the onus was on the community to come forward to educate their children." he said.
To motivate the parents and children, the Chief Minister gave also away “educational kits” to the newly enrolled children and presented awards – a Meena booklet on hygiene and other books to the meritorious students for their outstanding performance in the previous year.
The enrollment drive was celebrated with traditional gaiety and fervor in all the 18,000 villages of the state. Rallies of newly-enrolled children dressed in colorful costumes, with little paper crowns on their heads, were taken out. There was an over-whelming response from the members of the Village Education Committees, Parents/ Mothers Teachers Associations, who participated in the festivity in large numbers all over the state. Children conducted proceedings of the enrollment event. Oaths were taken by the community, committing themselves to ensure that not a single child was left in their village, who was not in the school. As many as 593,863 children (310,613 boys and 283,250 girls) were enrolled during the three days.
The public/private partnership in the enrollment drive was evident in Kaprada from the Rs. 40,000 donation coming from corporate houses and charitable institutions. It is reported that this year community organizations donated more than USD 127,000 in cash and USD 1.03 million in kind for the enrollment drive.
UNICEF has been closely associated with the Government in promoting girls education and improving the quality of elementary education. This year, the drive is expected to enroll 1.1 million children, including 525,000 girls.