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Regular-article-logo Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Schools discuss way out of gender bias

Drawings by students show some changes in mindset

Jhinuk Mazumdar Calcutta Published 03.02.20, 08:12 PM
Pictures drawn by schoolchildren portray some gender stereotypes and also how they are being challenged.

Pictures drawn by schoolchildren portray some gender stereotypes and also how they are being challenged. Picture by Gautam Bose

A girl draws an alpana and a boy plays football. A girl runs, but a boy comes first.

Teachers from several schools met on Monday to discuss gender stereotypes common in the classroom and that they are often accused of perpetuating.

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Many schools have started working towards changing stereotypes. The headmaster of a school in Hingalganj, North 24-Parganas, formed a girls’ football team a few years ago amid resistance from teachers and reluctance by some of the girls to wear shorts.

But a recent painting by a Class VIII boy of the same school showed girls playing football and boys applauding.

The headmasters and teachers of 20-odd schools in North 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Murshidabad and Birbhum participated in Gender in School Education: A state-level symposium, organised by Ebong Alap, a non-profit society, and the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights, on Monday.

“I did not tell him to draw this, he did it on his own. It’s because of what he sees around himself. Schools have to make an effort to break gender stereotypes. When I introduced the girls’ team, some of the teachers were opposed to the idea of girls wearing shorts. I invited the guardians, some of whom love the sport, and sought their consent. That helped me convince the teachers as well,” said Pulak Roy Chowdhury, the headmaster of Kanaknagar SD Institution.

One of the players cut her hair short because the opposition team members would grab her plaits from behind to stop her.

“There was an uproar at her home and she was not allowed to play football or come to school. I had to go to their home and speak to her father to bring her back. She went on to win medals in district championships,” Roy Chowdhury said.

Other teachers spoke about opposition faced for allowing girls and boys to sit according to their roll numbers during exams or not having separate queues for midday meals.

“There has to be a conversation between teachers on the ground and policy-makers or agencies,” said Sarmistha Dutta Gupta, founder secretary of Ebong Alap.

Teachers pointed out changes that can be incorporated in textbooks to avoid gender bias.

“When I was teaching my daughter in kindergarten, the image on the breakfast table was of a father reading the newspaper and mother serving tea or the father going out with a briefcase and the mother cooking. So if the mother wants to read the newspaper, an aberrant behaviour according to what is portrayed in the textbooks, it leads to gender violence,” the chairperson of the state commission for protection of child rights, Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti, said.

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