Education Strategy

Education as an alternative to child labor

KGBV School Girls, Narikudi

The government of India has established a scheme to address gender inequality in education, known as Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) schooling system, named after Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba. The main objective is to eliminate gender disparities by providing accessible and quality education in rural and disadvantaged communities. The project aims to reintegrate drop out girls back into the state schooling system.

As of 2010, there were fifty-four KGBV schools in Tamil Nadu, located in “Educationally Backward Blocks”, where the level of female rural literacy is lower than the national average and the gender gap is above the national average. The KGBV scheme is a three-year intensive scheme designed to integrate students back into the mainstream schooling system at the high school level.

In 2005 ODAM founded the KGBV School in Narikudi, and it is now predominantly funded by the government, however ODAM continues to provide extra financial support to the girls.

Girls eligible for this program are often child laborers from marginalized social groups, who haven’t been able to complete their elementary education. The majority of the school’s girls are the first in their families to receive an education, their parents are illiterate and sometimes because of this they don’t see the value of education. Some students have never been to school before. The girls are aged between 10 and 14, and enroll in the standard (grade level) that best fits their level of education at the time of arrival

ODAM contacts prospective pupils and their parents through the Women’s Self Help Groups and their staff. They talk with the family and convince them of the importance of the girls’ education and offer to fund their daughters’ education. In some cases, ODAM rescues girls from labor camps and negotiates with factory managers to bring a girl to KGBV.

KGBV girls in class

Narikudi KGBV School educates children between 6th and 8th standard level. After passing 8th standard, government funding ceases. Therefore, girls who want to pursue a high school education must find alternative sources of funding to support themselves. Often, when unable to find this support, educated young women return home for marriage or send them back to industry as child labor or bonded labor to provide for their family as laborers.  In many cases, these women have become the most educated in their community, often surpassing their male counterparts. While this new status typically opens doors for new economic enterprises, family pressure to assume “natural” home responsibilities can create diversions.

In the case of the KGBV School girls, this situation is harder, because if they don’t pass the exams, they will not be allowed to enter the next standard. In many cases, this means that they will be forced to return to the villages as laborers again. To avoid this situation, ODAM started the Barathi Education Centre in Narikudi in June 2008, which offers extra afterschool tutoring to support girls studying for final exams.

ODAM’s Strategy for Young Women’s Education


ODAM has fully committed itself to secure these young women’s education and development. To this end, ODAM has created opportunities for girls to live and study in Narikudi after they graduate from the 8th Standard in the KGBV School.

KGBV Girls on Republic Day

For the girls who wish to continue studying, ODAM has opened the Barathi Girls’ Hostel, that provides young women with safe lodging and meals that enable them to pursue their education.

Till this time, this was only possible because volunteers, local NGOs and other donors helped ODAM fund this project. However, in the present academic year, due to a shortage of funding, the number of girls living at the Hostel has been reduced to 16. However, ODAM still supports the other students by covering their transport and schooling expenses.

KGBV Narikudi girls, who pass the 8th standard access exam, can attend the nearby Narikudi government Higher Secondary School, where they are enrolled in classes from 9th to 12th standard level. Girls that do not continue into the local high school are offered the opportunity to pursue advanced technical training, usually learning tailoring and garment design.  At the same time they continue studying to try to pass the exams and continue their education. ODAM also intends to support the girls when the time comes to decide on tertiary education or employment.

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