The government is funding a government arts school for girls in Naxalbari, the tribal region of India’s north-eastern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The education system has been severely underfunded for decades, and in some parts of the country the gap between the average female and male literacy level is staggering.
“This is an issue of justice,” says Ashok Kumar, a tribal youth leader and former legislator from the state.
“If we don’t get the girls, then who will?”
As the state government is struggling to fund the school, Kumar has launched a campaign to help the government pay for it.
He has enlisted the help of former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s daughter and his wife, Priyanka Gandhi, and his daughter’s husband, Durga Devi.
“We’ve done our part.
We’ve asked for help,” Kumar told Quartz.
Kumar says the money will be used to help pay for infrastructure improvements to the school in Nangla village, about 45km from the capital Lucknow.
“It’s a basic infrastructure school for kids who are in desperate need,” he says.
The government, which has been funding the school since it opened in 2011, says it has paid Rs 4.4 crore ($1.6 million) to the state in the last six months, but the money isn’t enough.
In Nanglas village, which is about 200km from Lucknow, the school was officially established in July 2015.
But since then, Kumar says, the government has been unable to pay the rent for the premises, which includes a classroom, a classroom building, and a building for toilets.
It has also struggled to pay for school uniforms and supplies, and has had to ask local villagers for money to cover the cost of teachers, maintenance, and textbooks.
Kumar estimates the cost at around Rs 5,000 a month.
The state government, however, says the cost is being met through taxes and fees.
“The money is being paid to the government by the students themselves.
This money has come out of their own pocket.
The school is run by volunteers.
We pay the salaries of our volunteers,” says the deputy chief minister of Nangles, Praveen Kumar Singh.
The district administration is currently working on an app that will allow the school to track the students and their progress.
Kumar and Singh are also seeking the permission of the central government to transfer students from one school to another.
“To transfer students, the district administration has to send a petition to the central ministry, which would give permission for them to transfer to another school,” Singh told Quartz, adding that it would be done in two weeks.
“Once they are transferred, we would have to pay them back.
If they are unable to repay, we will take them to the court and file a petition,” he added.
The Nanglian government has also been paying for the school with funds raised by students’ scholarships.
But, Singh says, “we have no money for any other projects.
We have to put up with the burden of having to pay taxes.”