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Bicycles to keep girls in school
May 22, 2012
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RAMPUR SINGHARA — The daily trip to high school was costly, long and eventually, too much for Indian teenager Nahid Farzana, who decided she was going to drop out. Then, the government handed her a bicycle.

The eastern state of Bihar has been so fortunate at keeping teenage girls in school, the bike giveaways have spread to neighboring states. Now the Indian government wants to flourish it across the country in predictions it might help better female literacy. Before starting the program in 2007, officials in Bihar, one of India’s poorest and less developed states, desperate on how to educate the state’s females, whose literacy rate of 53 percent is more than 20 points below that of its males. Anjani Kumar Singh, Bihar’s principal secretary overseeing education, said, “We found that the high school dropout rate surged when girls reached the ninth class. This was chiefly because there are fewer high schools and girls had to travel longer distances to get to school.” Miserable families could not spend the money for transport, or were reluctant to let girls travel so far away, fearing for their safety. The program was blink of an eye 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. Singh said, “The results are remarkable. The school dropout rate for girls has plunged.”

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