CHENNAI: Many city schools boast of ultramodern infrastructure and equipment, such as smart classrooms and state-of-the-art laboratories, but, in terms of mindset, most of them are extremely conservative, and end up moral policing students.
While educational institutions in the rest of the world are trying to catch up with advancements in science and technology, it’s the religion that plays a central role here, with patriarchy and sexism being side actors. Take the case of this popular school based in the heart of the city. It teaches primary school students a song that reinforces gender roles and attributes the stereotype as ‘God’s words’.
The song runs as follows:
“Working, chopping and lifting too, these are things that boys should do.
Washing, ironing and cooking too, these are things that girls should do.”
A girl studying in Class-V in a CBSE school in Chromepet says she was told by her teacher not to cut her hair “short like boys”. She says, “My teacher says girls must have long hair. Even if we have only shoulder length hair, we are made to wear two plaits.”
C Mahendran (name changed), whose daughter studies in kindergarten of a school popular for producing top State ranks, says moral policing begins at a very young age. “My child was told that she must wear a bindi all times, even if she is wearing jeans. The school also sent a circular ‘strictly forbidding’ sleeveless for girls as young as 3-5 years.”
V Vilvan, a Class-IX student says in his school, boys and girls cannot play together, or even the same sport in PET class. “Boys play football, cricket or kabaddi, and girls play volleyball, kho-kho or indoor games.”
If these are smaller instances, the culmination is gender segregation and punishment for talking to persons of the opposite sex. Ruthika (name changed) was told she cannot participate in any cultural programmes in the school for talking to her male classmate after school hours.
“My maths teacher saw me eating ice cream at a bakery near the school with my friend. She informed my class teacher. Later, when I wanted to participate in an inter-school western music competition, my teacher asked me if I wanted to go there to talk to boys,” says Ruthika, a Class-XI student. In another school, teachers do the opposite and punish students who talk during class, by asking them to sit with students from the other gender.
Speaking to Express, the headmistress of a popular school said on the condition on anonymity that schools were conditioning students to follow social norms instead of helping them find their identity in their formative years. “Tampering too much with their choices will hinder them from forming a personality organically.”