Age No Bar ~ Education for Older Women
Education is timeless. It can be acquired at any point of time and its impact lasts for a lifetime. For women who have not had the privilege of receiving education in the appropriate time, it is never too late to start. If the will and resources are at hand, they can very well enlighten themselves with the Midas touch of education. Since they belong to an earlier generation, it is quite obvious that they have lived through times that were not too bright for women. They have never known what it means to be educationally empowered or financially independent. They are not even aware of their basic rights. Most of them lead a marginalized and isolated life, and this issue needs remedial measures since India has a population of around 60 million older women.
According to a survey carried out by the Agewell Research and Advocacy Centre, 62.13% of older women were found illiterate, 20.79% were just literate, and only 17.08% were educated. Thus, it is needless to mention that concrete steps need to be conceived and implemented towards ensuring education for older women, in order to uplift their state of living in every facet. Fortunately, the world is not indifferent towards this cause and is making slow but steady progress towards addressing it. In recent years, a number of universities are offering scholarships for older women. Older women are also exploring the prospects of distance learning which is highly advantageous for them. More adult education programmes and literacy campaigns are being introduced in this direction. Schools and colleges should encourage its students with projects and assignments to educate older women as a part of their community service. Access to vocational adult education or basic literacy and numeracy training as well as life skills training are very important for the older women to safeguard their rights and lead a life of dignity.
Adult education in India is mainly imparted through night schools, that have been set up in many towns and villages. Older women can hugely benefit from these schools, as it won’t interfere with their household chores and other responsibilities in the day-time. The government is also establishing libraries for the benefit of older women. Model community centres, Mahila Mandals, Janata colleges etc. are also being promoted to accelerate elementary education for older women at grass roots level. The National Policy of Education which was revised in 1992 took a broader view in educating women of all ages so that inequalities and disparities can be minimized from the society. It is regarded as a landmark in the context of education of older women in India. The National Literacy Mission (NLM) was launched by the Government of India in 1988 with the aim of eradication of adult illiteracy.
Education, being the most powerful instrument in empowering women assumes special importance in most national and international initiatives. Concerted endeavours are also being made to bring more and more women into the purview of education. Distance education is gaining immense popularity with older women, and therefore steps are being taken to expand its scope and make it reachable to women of all ages and areas. Going by this, the day is not too far when Indian woman, irrespective of her age, shall spearhead her own life and achieve new milestones!!