Strange but gender bias has hit me hard. Perhaps it was because of a recent invitation urging women to 'look pretty
'. I must confess it did bring the point home. I was in combat mode. The anger had barely subsided when another aberration was heard on the news. Women demand mobile phones, they are not demanding toilets
stated our esteemed Environment Minister
. Now what does that mean, I guess only a man can enlighten me. Needless to say the women activists are up in arms. The polemic will be fun to watch! I will just say that I cannot see what phones and toilets have in common. Beats me.
However gender bias raised its ugly head in another way altogether. I was asked by a funder to provide details about the number of children we had at project why. I asked my staff to give me the latest figures and was astonished to see that at the women centre the number of boys in the primary sections had fallen. This was very surprising and led me to ask the coordinator why this happened. The answer was most astonishing. It seemed that parents were enrolling their sons in private schools. These ran in the morning and hence the boys had stopped coming to the project. The schools in question were what I call teaching shops that have mushroomed all over the city, particularly in less privileged areas. They run in small buildings but boast grandiose names like 'Rose Valley', 'English Academy', 'Sundar Public school', 'SK Convent' etc, each stating that they are 'English medium public school'. My forays into some of the them revealed that English was barely spoken by principal and staff. The fees in these schools range from 300 to 500 a month. The parents who are eager to send their sons to such schools are reluctant
to send their daughters to the English stream of government schools for reasons better known to them.
Public school is the name private schools go by in India. The lure of these public schools was first brought to light by Kiran in the most candid way possible when she asked me whether my daughter had been to one! Kiran now studies in a swank public school. Her admission was nothing short of a nightmare
. Kiran is also the one who told me last week that there were only 10 girls in her class though the number of boys was 35. In her matter of fact way she added: parents send their boys to better schools. Yes you are right darling child this is a sad reality that cuts across society. Boys get a better deal. Girls have to fight every step of the way. Time we did something!