In celebration of International Day of the Girl, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, interviewed the heads of a very special school in India. What she learned and felt was nothing short of amazing…
I was ushered in, inside the Vice-Principal’s room when I expressed my desire to interview both, the VP and the Head-Mistress. It was a completely relaxed chat, and I was so surprised about the open-door policy embraced by this school for all its teachers and students. All my prepared interview questions flew out of my head as they talked about the school, the students and their passion for teaching.
During the chat, I observed so many students and teachers, and other staff members of the school, knocking and walking in with something or the other which needed either the Vice Principal’s or Head mistress’ intervention. No, you don’t need any appointment to go and say ‘Hello’ to them. None of the students did.
And as we proceeded to chat, I became more surprised and awed at the way they addressed students on a first name basis, from various grades who had popped in for a chat. Who could remember so many names? They did!
It has been a great pleasure to chat with Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice Principal and Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the head Mistress of PSBB Millennium School in Chennai, India. They spoke about their teaching journey, their vision for girls and boys in the school and the murals. It was the murals which sparked my curiosity and led me into their doorway. I included picture of them throughout the interview below, and I hope you find them as beautiful, as I did! Now on to the interview…
What inspired the murals? Who did them?
Initially, we got a palm imprint from all the girls of the school to say, “I am proud of being a girl.” The boys of the school wanted to join, too, to say, “We respect you.” This was done to celebrate the “Day of the Girl Child.”
These murals were an extension of the same theme.
The senior students were encouraged to paint the walls sharing their thoughts on being a girl, and the boys also joined, to express how they felt about their girl-classmates. The result was the lovely messages that came across on the walls.
What was the effect of the murals?
They are receiving a lot of attention. The occurrences of boys teasing girls has reduced considerably. Bullying is also greatly reduced. Respect between the genders has increased. The general attitude has improved.
These murals are painted at the backdrop of the playground, and all the children at some point in time look at them at least once a day. And whether they want to or not, they have to acknowledge their presence consciously or subconsciously. Children right from grade 1 to 12 share the playground and so they would look at them. They would talk about them. And it would create an impact as to how girls are viewed.
The murals affect the thought process of both the boys and girls as they grow up. Boys would respect girls and girls would grow up to be secure, and confident in this society.
What is the % of boys and girls in the school?
Boys beat girls by being 54% and girls are 46%. But this is still a great ratio for the state where female infanticide is rampant in the rural areas.
Can you comment about the performance of the girls and boys in the school?
Girls always out-beat boys! They are more sincere, they are meticulous in their planning and definitely more hardworking.
They also spoke about their respective personal teaching career and their journey in the school. Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, the Vice Principal joined as a Mathematics teacher and now in addition to her duties as a Vice Principal, she continues teaching Mathematics for Grade 12. She is also the HOD for the Math department. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience in mathematics, and she is passionate about it.
Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the Head Mistress is also the HOD of the Social Science department. She also manages dual responsibilities and says she would never trade the joy she finds in teaching for anything. When I asked about her retirement, she says, she is a grandmother, too, and would love to go and spend time with her grandchild. But she feels strongly attached to the school, the children, and even to the principal.
The Principal of the PSBB Millennium School, Mrs. Sita Uma Maheswaran also had a few words for World Moms Blog in spite of her very busy schedule. The below conversation is from the Principal.
Do you feel like there is a true cultural shift taking place to recognize the importance of the girl child?
On one hand, we Indians, have so many woman deities being worshipped as God. On the other hand, we still have women and young girls being gang raped.
What is the main factor driving this force?
Attitude among men is the main factor, irrespective of whether they are educated or not. The way they have been brought up with values in life, the way they have seen their mother or sister being treated – this can have a great effect!
How do you think these murals are affecting the thought process of girls and boys in the school?
What was your journey like to become the principal of such a prestigious school?
What is your one wish for girls in your school and all over the world?
Mrs. Jayashree Subramanian, the Head-Mistress said, ” I want girls in my school and all over the world to have self-respect, self-esteem and know that they are powerful. I want to teach the girls in my school to face the challenging world with confidence and courage and know that they can be whatever they aspire you to.”
Mrs. Bhavani Baskar, The Vice Principal said, “I want to teach my girls courage, valor and self-esteem. The great South Indian poet Bharathi said, “It is a great blessing to be born as a human, and even greater honor and privilege to be born as a woman.” I want my girls to realize that. I want my girls to be mothers, sisters, daughters and to be an embodiment of love for this entire race.”
There were a few other teachers too who shared their wish for girls everywhere.
Mrs. Mukhtar Tahsin Fathima, the third grade teacher said, “I want all girls to have awareness about sexual education. I want them to know and be able to protect themselves under any untoward circumstances. I want little children, both, boys and girls, to be given adequate sexual education, and the ability to take care of themselves and seek help when they need it. They should also let down their reservations, shyness and taboo and come out and speak and discuss and be aware of things.”
Mrs. Deepa Seshadri, the English teacher said, “I want my girls to be able to wear and talk what they feel like. They should have the freedom to be natural and happy. They should not have to live in a world where any spontaneous or innocent act is misconstrued in a wrong way. My girls as well as boy students should be able to live in a world which is liberated from prejudice of gender-related actions.”
Mrs. Banu the Kindergarten teacher said, “I want equality for all my students. When gender equality is ensured, everything else follows. Education of girl-child, empowerment of women, better living conditions for girls and women and many such issues are resolved.
Girls have a say in everything happening with them. They are independent, and they get to decide what they want to do with their lives. I have brought up my daughter, instilling that she is equal or better than just about any of her counterparts. Every mother and teacher need to do the same with their children. “
The Principal of the school, Mrs. Sita Umamaheswaran said, “I want my girls to know they are no less than any boy or man. To dream big, and set goals that they can work toward. Enjoy womanhood and be in a world that respects women and safeguards them.”
The students of this school have expressed their wish for girls across the world, through these hand-painted, beautiful and striking murals.
What is your wish for the Girl-Child across the world?
This is an original post from our World Mom and Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan on the occasion of the “#DayOfTheGirl Child.”
Photo credit for the murals, to the PSBB Millennium School.