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The Pottery Town government school (on Pottery Road where I had volunteered for nearly four months) closed for summer holidays in end March but I often find some children playing in the ground or loitering around in the neighbourhood. That’s hardly surprising as many of their parents and sometimes the kids themselves work and live nearby. But I see only boys – Ramesh, his younger brother Praveen and Narasimha et al almost always! Some of the girls I know, like Pushpalata or Shashikala are definitely busy helping with or doing household chores. But what prevents even a few of the rest from wandering about – distance, security, exclusion? While the first two could be definite reasons, I have witnessed the role of the last particularly with the high schoolers (classes VIII – X). During their Physical Training hours (PT period as the students refer to – some of these usages are timeless, eh?), I have seen the girls walking around the playground or being spectators to the boys’ cricket or football skills. Even the rare girl who tries to join them is sidelined or discouraged vociferously. Of course some girls play "kho kho" or similar games at times.
In fact, I cannot get over the Saturday afternoon when little Dhanalaxmi listed the "Sports Day" (actually "Sports Week") contests for girls in classes IV and V – lemon and spoon race, three-legged race, book balancing race, etc. All completed during school hours before the major competitions. But for the boys in the same classes – short distance races mainly on the penultimate and final days! She was surprised at my questioning the disparity. And when I asked if any of their events were scheduled on the concluding and most important day one of the older boys taking a break from his practice, gloatingly replied "Oh, that’s not for the girls!", much to her indignation.
And we wonder why girls continue to drop out of schools despite all the incentives and facilities…