Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download


16 D+C  e-Paper  August 2016 culture. On the contrary, young Santals who grew up in urban hostels and did not learn our language well, tend to feel alienated in the later stages of their life. That is equally true of most of the educated Santals who live in urban areas. Many of them express a deep yearning to identify culturally on blogs and social media. That yearning sometimes proves harmful, for example when people romanticise our culture or even radicalise it for political purposes. Neither approach helps our community to rise to challenges we face today. That is why we believe that it is better to be in touch with one’s heritage right from the start. Unlike the members of India’s privileged castes, Santals can- not take that for granted. A traditional Santal string instrument. Baski Marriage instead of graduation Bangladesh has improved school enrolment with spectacular success in the past 25 years, and today, girls are more likely to go to school than boys. Even in rural areas, schools are now mostly within commut- ing distance. As in many other parts of the world, however, drop-out rates remain a worry in Bangla- desh, and the quality of government-run schools tends to be poor. New policies are needed to help girls complete secondary school. In Bangladesh in 2010, 97 % of the girls aged six to 10 went to primary school, according to official statis- tics, and so did 92 % of the boys. Moreover, the gov- ernment data indicate that 55 % of girls aged 11 to 15 were enrolled in secondary schools, as were 45 % of boys. Government data are sometimes distorted, but the general trend in Bangladesh is undisputed. We con- tributed to a nationwide study on “Women’s life choices and attitudes” (WilCAS) in 2014. Our survey relied on information provided by mothers rather than on data provided by schools. According to our assessment, the girls’ net enrolment rates were 83 % in primary education and 58 % in secondary education in 2014. The respective shares for boys were 81 % and 47 %. These figures are less impres- sive than the government statistics, but are none- theless very good given that Bangladesh is a very poor country. Only two decades ago, girls’ enrol- ment was lower than boys. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has repeatedly stressed that India and other countries should learn from Bangladesh’s educa- tional success. That said, the risk of dropping out of school remains considerable. Our estimate is that 32 % of the boys and 24 % of the girls who went to primary school in 2010 had stopped going to (secondary) school by 2014. Apparently, the risk of dropping out increases with the girls’ age. According to our sample, more than half of the girls left school for “marriage-related reasons”. That was the case for only one fifth of the male drop-outs. In previous decades, early marriage was even more likely to disrupt women’s education. The WiLCAS data show that almost two thirds of all drop-outs among the mothers surveyed had quit school because they got married. It is telling, moreover, that “household poverty” is the second most important reason for leaving school today. It means that families cannot afford school- related expenses. This trend is not unusual. Accord- ing to a study published by UNESCO and UNICEF (2015), “in many countries, low-income households cannot afford the direct costs of sending their chil- dren to school (for instance for fees, uniforms or books) or the indirect costs resulting from the lost wages or household contributions of their sons and daughters.” In Bangladesh, the trend is nonetheless puzzling because the government has been promoting girls’ enrolment in schools since the 1990s and has low- ered the costs of school attendance in several ways. Moreover, income poverty has been declining. Most likely, the reference to household poverty actually indicates a still prevalent anti-girl bias at the house- hold level. It is useful to consider what households spend on children’s schooling. At the primary level, total edu- cational expenditure for boys and girls is almost equal. In fact, slightly more is spent on girls, though IndiA Bangladesh Ghosaldanga West Bengal