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Ever come across a worker from the unorganized sector striving hard to ensure that her/his daughter(s) and son(s) study? Probe a little and most probably the girl(s) will be in a government school and the boy(s) in a private or a government funded English medium school. The latter have a better student-teacher ratio and the teachers are motivated or at least compelled to teach properly and regularly. Further, the parents and teachers are held accountable for the children’s presence and performance. Unlike the vernacular medium government schools!
Talking to Joseph, a fruit vendor in Benson Town whose regular customer I was, revealed that he had a daughter and two sons. The girl Lila was in the Pottery Town Government Kannada School while the boys were in a private school nearby. She happened to be one of the promising students I had noticed in class V while volunteering at the school. "Why don’t you move her to the same school as her brothers?", I asked him. "I would if I could afford it", he replied.
I have found similar situations with many privately/self employed housemaids, drivers, security guards et al. Even if their daughters are much better students, many such workers prefer to invest more in their sons’ education. Worse still, a girl’s education is often sacrificed if the parents are unable to afford it or find sources to support it financially.
In a case of extreme discrimination, Janaki, my aunt’s unlettered housemaid did not hesitate to invest extra her lazy and adamant English medium school going son Navin. She bought him expensive school accessories (shoes, satchel, bicycle, etc.). But her daughter Manju had to manage with ‘hand-me-down’ or cheap stuff and studied in the vernacular medium until high school. This was despite the fact that the girl was a regular and keen student who also supplemented her family’s income by doing household work before and after school. "Why do you do this Janaki?", my aunt asked her a few times unable to accept her "Oh, I am saving for her wedding!" justification. "You may end up regretting having pampered your indifferent and irresponsible son", we told her after umpteen unsuccessful attempts at getting him interested in academics. It was heartening to learn that Manju too questioned her mother’s rampant favouritism often and managed to get her fair share without any provocation from us. Actually, she even started saving some of her monthly wages for herself instead of handing over everything to her mother!
Note: Some people’s names have been changed to protect identity