Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Schooling across the gender divide ...

Two interesting examples.

1. From Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan's interview in Current Science:

In your talk you put up a slide saying you studied in a girls’ school at Baroda. How did you happen to study in a girls’ school?

When my parents moved there that was the only English medium school in Baroda. And since they didn’t know Gujarati, they were not comfortable with the idea of sending me to a Gujarati school because then they wouldn’t be able to help me. They wouldn’t be able to understand even my teachers, for instance. So they wanted me to go to an English medium school. So they sent me there because at that time it was for both girls and boys. Then what happened is that when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade, another school called Roseway High School, which was a Jesuit school, opened up an English medium section. So my school decided to make their school strictly for girls because it was run by nuns. But they let all the old boys stay in the school. As I went through school, there were fewer and fewer boys. In the end it became mostly girls.

2. From this autobiographical essay by R.J. Hans-Gill in Lilavati's Daughters:

... The opportunities for education for girls were non-existent in villages: there were no schools for girls, and girls were not allowed to join schools for boys. So the first few years of my life were spent studying at home, longing to go to school. My parents encouraged and guided me in learning. Sometimes, I had the opportunity of going to school and attending classes unofficially, since my father knew the headmaster. I enjoyed these visits immensely. [...]

My father was transferred to Isroo when I was about six years old. This village boasted of a primary school for girls. The school was housed in an enclosure which had a large room and a courtyard. After an informal test I was admitted to the fifth class. Only one teacher somehow managed all the classes, so very little was taught and I was not interested in it. All my classmates were much older than I and did not like the fact that I knew much more than they did, so I had no friends. I was immensely bored but continued going to this school since it was the only available one. Then for one year I studied English, Arithmetic and Punjabi at home. My uncle Narsher Singh, who was naib tehsildar at Balachaur, very reluctantly agreed to let me stay with him and study at a school for boys, where I could only go posing as a boy. This was a secret between our family and the headmaster. ... [Bold emphasis added]