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    Posted January 22, 2013 by
    San Diego, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Girls + Education: Your message

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    Glimmer of hope for India's poorest girl students


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     A group of young girls walking home from school in the impoverished Indian state of Bihar made iReporter siddhart, himself the father of a daughter, think about the difference a good education can make. "Bihar has been particularly difficult for girls' education ... because of the condition of local politics in the state [where] ministers themselves are uneducated or poorly educated," he said. "Parents, who can barely afford the out-of-state fees for their sons, see it as a waste of money and time to spend on daughters when the same money can be spent on their dowry and wedding. Most girls end up getting the shorter end of the stick when it comes to education." To change such attitudes, he says, requires teaching parents to value their daughters' desires for education and for India's politicians to lead by example. "An educated girl means an educated country," he said.
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer

    Driving through Bihar, India, recently, on a road trip from Patna to Varanasi, I had first-hand experience of why Bihar is considered one of India’s poorest and most backward states. The roads were appallingly over-crowded, and the towns in complete disarray. But one glimmer of hope was the constant stream of students in every town we drove through. And these were not just boys – but girls – hordes of them, returning from school.
    Researchers found out that 37.8% of Bihar's teachers could not be found during unannounced visits to schools, the worst teacher absence rate in India and one of the worst in the world. It’s almost unimaginable to think that more than 1500 years ago, it was home to the first University in the world (and the first residential university, where people from all over the world came to study) – Nalanda University. Bihar was also the place where Buddha attained enlightenment more than 2600 years ago.
    Today, Bihar is trying to recuperate from decades of educational neglect; it’s heartening to know that the government is taking measures to improve girl education, too. The ‘bike giveaway program,’ which offers free bicycles to girls that stay enrolled in schools, has been a huge success, with the number of girls registered in the ninth grade in Bihar's state schools more than tripling in four years, from 175,000 to 600,000. The results are remarkable. The school dropout rate for girls has plunged.
    For this backward Indian state, which was once the center of education of the world, there is still a glimmer of hope - in a country where a large percentage of people place a good education above everything else.

    Maybe it's time for the richest countries, including America, to take a leaf from this book to keep their students from dropping out.

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