| Preeti practises karate at Kilkari Bihar Bal Bhavan. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Patna, Jan. 9: Preeti Kumari, a Class X student at Government Senior Secondary School in Rajendra Nagar, has learnt to fend for herself.
Around four years ago, a karate teacher came to her school and Preeti was told she could train in the martial arts if she was interested. “But the trainer came for just one day and then disappeared. In 2009, I joined karate classes at Kilkari Bhavan,” says the 14-year-old girl who lives in Shiv Shakti Nagar on the outskirts of Patna.
Today, Preeti has a 1st dan in black belt and acknowledges that martial arts knowledge has done a lot to her confidence and given her a sense of security. “Previously I would ignore comments made by roadside Romeos when I walked to school. Now I have begun to resist — I combat them verbally and those who know me by face have stopped passing remarks. Once outside the Moinul Haque Stadium, I used my martial arts skills on a 20-something youth who was persistent with his comments. He fled,” she says in glee.
Preeti still goes to practise karate. But she is just one of a handful who do so — a blow to the plan of the Nitish Kumar government in its nascent years to impart martial arts training in all schools to make girls able to protect themselves.
Education minister P.K. Shahi admitted to The Telegraph that the project is stalled but would resume soon. “Under the scheme, around one lakh girl students all over the state have been imparted martial arts training in judo and karate,” he said, adding that taekwondo would be included in the list.
Even if the numbers quoted by the minister are correct, they are not enough as over 2 crore girls study in government schools.
Principal secretary, education, Amarjeet Sinha was more categorical. “The scheme under which self-defence skills were to be imparted to girl students will be made more systematic,” he said. Sinha said that in the next 10 to 15 days, the education department would issue an advertisement inviting private martial arts instructors to offer training to girl students studying in middle and high schools. The self-defence training will be regularised and it will run round the year, he added.
Girls studying in government schools were surprised when told that such an initiative had been taken by the government. Snehlata, a Class XII student at Bankipore Girls’ High School, said: “I am studying in this school since Class VI, which is almost six years, but I have never seen any martial arts trainer imparting self-defence skills to us.”
Geeta Sinha, a senior teacher of English at Bankipore Girls’ High School, proffered an explanation. “Martial arts training is not included in our school syllabus. So there is no regular trainer.”
|Schoolgirls in Bangalore practise self-defence skills. (PTI)
She pointed out that around two years ago, some students of the school were given martial arts training, but that was not a part of any government initiative and the students themselves had to bear the cost.
Students at Government Girls’ Middle School in Gardanibagh also expressed surprise. Puja Kumari Mishra, a Class XII student, said: “We too have read in newspapers about girl students studying in government schools being provided martial arts training, but in our school no such scheme is there.”
Moreover, there is no scheme for regular appointments of martial arts instructors at government schools.
Kilkari Bihar Bal Bhawan, an unit of the state education department, had taken an initiative to teach karate to girls of government schools but only some — like Preeti Kumari — have enrolled.
“We are running centres at 10 government schools in Patna. At our centres, students of government schools learn karate, but it is optional. They can choose karate from many other sporting and cultural activities. At present, around 500 students are learning karate at the 10 centres of Kilkari,” said Anita Thakur, the programme officer of Kilkari Bhawan.
The instructors say their remuneration is poor. “I get only Rs 3,500 per month for taking 26 classes in a month. I am not satisfied with the payment but I have no other option but to continue with this job due to the financial crisis,” said a karate trainer associated with Kilkari who did not wish to be named.