KOCHI: Little girls and boys prancing around in T-shirts and three-fourth pants - this is Government LP School, Valayanchirangara. The 104-year-old school believes in pockets and practicality, not to mention equality. And so, they introduced a gender-neutral uniform for the students – yellow shirts and three-fourths for pre-primary classes, mint green shirts and three-fourths for primary classes.
“The uniform had a trial run for pre-primary classes last year. Students and parents seemed happy. It prompted us to go further and change uniforms for the entire school,” says Raji C, headmistress of the school.
The success of the uniform is rather evident; girls run and jump around in glee, sans boxy skirts that restrict movement. “Pants are so much better than skirts, they do not ride up while we sit. Also, we don’t have to be prim and proper when we sit in class,” giggles Rimitha Rineesh, a Class III student.
A few boys, her classmates, nod in agreement. “Over the years, it has come to our notice that girls maintain a low profile when it comes to sports such as long jump. They fear their skirts might rise and become laughing stocks. The same happens during heavy rain and gale. Also, they are children, they’re constantly active. They can’t be asked to sit, legs crossed, at all times. Simultaneously, times have changed. We need to move forward. What we inculcate in a child’s mind at the earliest, stays for life. So, our academic committee had discussed the concept of a unisex uniform. Benoy Peter, chairperson of the committee played a crucial role in exercising the concept. Additionally, the overwhelming support of the PTA and my colleagues paved way,” says Raji.
One can’t help but wonder if gender-neutral can also mean skirts for all. Raji says: “Pants are for practicality,” she says. Was she worried about the reaction of parents? “A minority were uncertain. They were used to seeing girls wearing skirts and wondered about not aligning with ‘tradition’. However, upon watching their elated daughters, their doubts disappeared,” Raji smiles.
The school races past its contemporaries not just in terms of uniform, they have an all-women staff, and an initiative called the social audit, which examines the academic performance of teachers.
Albeit, Raji is anxious about the infrastructure. “The panchayat and other people have helped us a lot. In fact, our motto is ‘Naadinu vendiyoru school, schoolinu oppam oru naadu,’ she smiles.