Editor’s Note: This month, that is August 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Campus Experiences, where we invite various articles to highlight the diverse range of encounters we often confront when we are a part of any educational institution or space for learning be it schools, universities, colleges, tuitions and home. If you’d like to share your article, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One year after completing my higher secondary education from a co-educational institution as the Head Girl, the mundane situations and truculent experiences of my school life came to be as an eye-opener.
I am a sophomore in college now. I see that my batchmates, seniors and juniors generally take to social media platforms when they feel nostalgic about their school days, wishing they could turn back time. I too wish I could, but not to enjoy my school life yet again. The last year of school was unbearable for me for many reasons. Owing to this, all my childhood memories got buried deep in my soul, leaving behind acrid musings.
After I completed my higher secondary education, many instances from the past knocked at my brain as eye-openers. How I wish I had realised them before. One day, while discussing these thoughts with my friend, I understood that most of my friends have never really paid attention to them. Hence, I decided to take an opportunity to write them down.
1. Why does the Head Boy stand before the Head Girl in a parade?
In my higher secondary, I was the Head Girl of my institute. I still remember that my male counterpart used to be involved in some other tasks while we used to practice for the Independence Day march-past. In his absence I used to lead the march, holding the prestigious school flag. I also remember that he was asked by a few teachers to work on his marching style because he wasn’t able to carry it out as they had expected. Nevertheless, on the main day, we all marched in the unquestioned, unchanged way.
After a year, while reading a book (the title of which I don’t remember as of now), the thought that ‘why it was a tacit rule that the Head Boy always stood before his female counterpart’ slammed me hard. It came as a revelation of how comfortably accustomed we are to everything around us that is against gender equality. When we had the same portfolios, then why did the rule of ‘boy before girl’ come into action? And since how long have we been carrying out this ritual illogically?
Once, a close friend of the Head Boy had told me that I should not act over smart because I was just a Head Girl and he was superior to me in terms of portfolio. I had stood up against it and taken the matter to the Principal. Justice was delivered, but no one really stood up against his wrongdoings except a close friend of mine who stood by me throughout.
2. Why are girls and boys asked to sit in separate rows?
Every time, all the students were called to the meeting hall or auditorium of the school, the seating arrangement was designed in a way that there were two separate rows for two genders (again, tacitly understood). On the occasion of the school farewell, I felt remorseful about the fact that I couldn’t sit next to my best friend because he is a boy and was seated in a different row.
Moreover, it was the judgment of teachers and mockery of our own batchmates that held us aback from shattering the rule. I feel disgusted that we have stopped analysing the ‘why’ behind any circumstance or situation to such an extent that we have accepted it as an obligation.
3. Why are boys not allowed to attend seminars hosted for girls on the menstrual cycle?
During our teenage, all the girls used to be called surreptitiously from our classes for attending seminar on menstrual hygiene (with a school diary and pen for hiding the sanitary napkin from boys) leaving behind boys wondering in awe and perplexity for not being called along with. Now we talk about ‘Breaking the Stigma’ but I wish we were really taught about this since our childhood days.
Once, a girl came running up to me (since I was in-charge) to inform that a sanitary napkin is lying open on the assembly stairway and students are giggling while passing by it. I asked her why she didn’t ask them straight to stop the nuisance, to which she replied nothing. I requested a worker to assist us in throwing it in its disposal bin. I now think that had I been more aware, I could have brought a change in the way we used to deal with such things, by initiating conversation about it publicly.
4. Why there is no room for constructive feedback for teachers in our system?
We all are humans and we do commit mistakes. As students, no one leaves a single stone unturned in making us realise our mistakes. But what about teachers? Do they not commit mistakes? Do we not think that our feedback can enhance the teaching-learning process?
I understand that every teacher has a unique teaching style but the main role of a teacher is to help his/her students understand the subject at hand and if, he/she is unable to carry her duty out, then his/her style is of no tangible benefit to the students. Is it something that happens only in India, that teachers become egoistic when any student provides any constructive criticism to them?
5. Why do students not stand up against what is wrong and silently endure everything?
During my last year in school, I was shattered and devastated to see how the teachers and other authorities who I respected so much were sold to money & favouritism. During the election of cabinet members in school, I came across such a flagrant & unbelievable conspiracy, the plot of which was made by the teachers who I considered to be apostles of equality. On the day of the announcement of the cabinet members, I was numb at the sight of my fellow mates.
In fact, it was a unanimous reaction of the crowd but for that of the teachers involved and the friends of the elected students. One girl was elected because her boyfriend had begged an authority to give her some portfolio. One was elected because he had paid INR 30,000 to the same authority. One teacher returned favours of her student who used to take private coaching from her, by getting her elected as a ‘discipline in-charge’. She came to the dais on the announcement day, chewing a bubble gum. Worse, she was once caught asking for bribe from a 13-year old student to save him from punishment. There is so much that I will have to write a separate essay for enlisting everything. (These all are facts that have been confirmed by the students themselves.)
I was stunned to see that so many students who genuinely deserved the portfolios were not even on the list. But what shocked me to no extent was that everyone knew that it was wrong yet didn’t stand up against it. I did my part in taking a bold step to write an application addressed to the Principal, explaining him the unjust procession, inefficiency of the representatives and offering to resign if he can’t do anything about it. It was such a hard time for me that I unexpectedly broke down in his cabin. Somehow, he told me that it’ll be better and nothing ever changed. I decided to undertake my role with utmost righteousness and sincerity, that’s it.
But why didn’t anyone stand up against it? Why did everyone discuss it in their friend circles but never questioned the authorities for such a decision?
6. Why school is all about some extrovert students and why most other students never really get a chance?
I have always been an extrovert & effervescent student since childhood and now; when I delve deeper into this fact, I hate myself for unknowingly snatching away opportunities of students who deserved them as much as I did. During those days, teachers used to always bestow a chance to those students for public speaking, participating in competitions and representation who they knew will carry it out with finesse. I have only met one teacher in my entire life who was daring enough to give an inexperienced student a chance.
I can say it now that, in school, mostly extroverts took away the majority of appreciation, plaudits and attention of the teachers and other fellow students. I think that we were too young to understand the sharing of opportunities, rather, those who taught us complex subjects could themselves never understand it better.
7. Why do everyone doubt and judge girl-boy friendships in school?
I still don’t understand why teachers used to stare with doubtful, truculent eyes at girl-boy friendships. There are so many students who never really stood up against it because teachers just don’t understand. Once, a teacher mocked at a girl for sitting next to a boy whom she considered to be her brother. When she courageously clarified that the teacher’s speculation was wrong, the latter asked the student to apologise. She refused to do that.
The teacher told the class that she won’t take up any more lectures if the student didn’t apologise. To my much dismay, I saw students accusing the fellow student of creating such a havoc. With just a handful number of students by her side, she finally apologised for no reason.
Can you imagine what could have happened if the entire class had stood next to her and supported her decision?
8. Why do boys make fun of girls’ facial hair and ‘tomboy’-ishness?
To admit, I have had hirsute skin. Owing to hormonal disturbances, I experience hair growth on my face as well. I remember how other girls and I, who faced the very same problem, used to be called names by boys. I know it used to be so embarrassing for us because we knew that boys used to talk vulgarly about us. Once a boy had said to me that I have a beard and I should shave it because it makes me look like a boy; boys, who now support feminism. I hope they really understand and feel regretful for their past actions.
It was in class twelfth when I went for waxing and temporary hair removal. Now when I think about it, I know that it was peer pressure and their mockery that had forced me to go for it and not my personal choice. I wish parents give adequate time in teaching their children how to treat others and how not to give a heck about what others say.
Thanks mom. I am also sorry that I realised your teaching quite late in life.
9. Why senior teachers take away all the appreciation and admiration of senior students?
As we grow up, we tend to forget the people who played a pivotal role in building our ethics and foundation of subjects—our primary school teachers. I had always been very attached to them and once I heard a teacher saying that students tend to forget them and remember only the senior ones. That was the time I had felt so sympathetic towards them. But that is the hard, undigestible truth.
I urged them to attend our farewell program but they simply said that they have not been invited and no other senior student has come up to them with that request. They told me that on every farewell day in the last years, students click photographs with their senior teachers and express their gratitude towards them while they simply stand aside in a corner. I couldn’t convince them after this but I made sure that in my farewell speech I mentioned ‘a special thanks to my junior teachers’ as a step to fill some void in their hearts.
When I talk to my batchmates now, they have the unanimous opinion that it was their junior teachers who crafted what they really are today. I wish students paid more attention to those who really matter in life not long after the time slips away.
Anshita Dubey is a student of Bachelor of Management Studies (B.M.S.) at the University of Delhi. She is a voracious reader and is zealous about observing mundane events & situations and writing about the indifference of mankind and dearth of decoding feminism at school-level education. She believes that change can be brought by someone who can understand when change is needed & words can play a catalystic role in that revelation. She likes to write poems, prose & has a thing for deep writings. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Featured Image Source: Feminism In India