The Unfulfilled Glory of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalyas

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) were started under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in 2004 with an objective of giving an impetus to the “Girl Education” in regions where the situation was very critical in terms of access to quality education.

The roots of KGBV go back to a collective program that started in 1988 called Mahila Samakhya with an overarching objective of empowerment of women through education. The program deviated from conventional educational initiatives and mobilized and organized women in identified Educationally Backwards Blocks (EBBs) of 10 different states.


The program emerged as a combination of literacy, mobilization and collective action. One of the key challenges that were acknowledged to facilitate the process of girls’ education was the mobility of girls and getting dropout girls back to school. Parents often refused to send their daughters to school every day to ‘protect’ them which would lead to a high dropout rate from the school system. Keeping this in mind, it was decided to set up residential secondary government schools (Class 6th -8th) for the girls living in Educational Backward Blocks (Blocks, where the Gender gap is higher than National average and level of Rural Female Literacy rate, is lower than National average). It was proposed that these schools will be built on 3 models:

  1. Model 1: A school and hostel on the same campus with a capacity for 100 girls.
  2. Model 2: School and hostel on the same campus with a capacity for 50 girls
  3. Model 3: A separate hostel with a capacity of 50 girls, attached to adjacent government School. The girls attend the classes in the government school with other children and stay in the nearby hostel premises

SwaTaleem 2.jpg

In total, there are 3,609 KGBVs across India, with over 4.5 Lac girls studying in these schools. The schools started with a vision of developing at par with Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across India but over a period of time, that vision got lost somewhere in the journey. Let’s try to understand the potential these schools have and the challenges they face currently.

The importance of these schools could be understood by the fact that they admit girls coming from the most marginalized section of the society. The criteria involve giving priority to the drop out girl students coming from Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) communities. Apart from this, in case of conundrums, other criteria as being an orphan, having a single parent and distance of home from the hostel are also kept in mind. The guardian of most of the girls studying here is daily wage laborers and small farmers. 

SwaTaleem 3.jpg

The girls reside in the schools which are at a distance of as nearby as 1 kilometer to as far as 15 km away. You will mostly find these schools located in the interior of a village and a lot of times devoid of access to frequent public transport as well. Apart from these challenges, these schools also present a great opportunity. Considering that these schools are residential, the amount of time that the teachers, warden, and girls get to spend together is higher which opens up a lot of possibilities to learn and grow together.

These schools have been struggling with a lot of challenges. Some of them being:

  1. Drop out of the girls after KGBVs:  It becomes difficult for a lot of girls to continue their schools after KGBVs, in a majority of the cases family pressure being the sole reason. There hasn’t been documented reports on this but in Bihar itself, almost 95% of the girls drop out after schools. And a lot of these dropouts result in early marriage.
  2. Lack of Teacher Professional Development: The fact that these schools are isolated (mostly 1 in each EBB) and are often marginalized in the larger ecosystem of schools, they get left out. As per NITI Aayog’s Evaluation Report on KGBVs (2015), only 69% of the Teachers got ‘some’ professional development in the last 2 years.
  3. Low Expectations and Stagnancy in the system: In the teaching-learning ecosystem of these schools, the expectations from the girls have been limited to access to schools in the form of KGBVs. Often guardians’ vision gets limited to access to food, schooling, uniform, and books. Mostly they don’t prioritize to ensure that their Girl studies further and fulfill her dreams. While on the other hand the vision of Teachers gets limited by the initial learning levels of students and their own capacity as a Teacher. The girls themselves, in the absence of role models and awareness of future opportunities, don’t seek continuing education as a priority. This has led to an existing stagnancy in the system creating a glass ceiling for the girls studying in KGBVs.
  4. Administrative Challenges:  The functioning of these schools are overlooked by the SSA and both center and state play a role it. In some of the states, these schools face a financial/administrative crunch as well, where wardens and Teachers are paid meager salaries (5k-8k per month) and all the Teachers are working on a contract basis. The incentives for Teachers to be deputed in these schools are limited because of this.

Ray of hope and path ahead

These schools definitely deserve the attention of well-wishers in terms of making them the model residential schools in the respective block at par with JNV. The collective actions pertaining to Teacher Professional Development, Reducing Dropouts, Engaging with community members and bringing administrative reforms to improve learning ambiance for students and working conditions for Teachers is the need of the hour. While JNV functions on a merit-based system, these schools have immense potential to set themselves up as stellar examples of schools running on affirmative actions. The girls studying in these schools have the potential to become role models in their villages and sow the seeds of community reforms there.

SwaTaleem 4.jpg

\The good thing is that some of the state governments have extended these schools beyond the 8th standard (Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana) and paid attention to the system’s well-being for quality of education. MHRD in its recent mandate has asked these schools to be extended till class 12th across India and got them under the ambit of SMSA (Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan). The journey to the unfulfilled glory of these schools is long and it just requires few thoughtful committed citizens to rally together because as quoted by someone:

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has’

Written by Mr. Vaibhav Kumar, Co-founder SwaTaleem Foundation (EduMentum Cohort 2019)

Based in Mewat, Haryana, SwaTaleem works with Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBVs) to create thriving communities of teachers, girls, and other stakeholders. The organization, founded in 2018, is part of EduMentum’s second cohort since 2018.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s