Fourteen-year-old Kanika, daughter of a labourer in Gurgaon’s Kadarpur village, dreams of becoming an accountant one day, so she can provide a better life to her family and herself. The main obstruction in her path, however, is the government school in the village where she studies.
The Government Senior Secondary School in Kadarpur only provides students with education up to Class X. For higher studies, students — both boys and girls — have to travel to a government school in Badshahpur, almost 10 kilometres away. “For the boys, this is a problem only as far as cost or distance is concerned, but for us, this commute becomes an issue of safety,” says a student of Class IX, who has an older brother in Class X as well as a younger one in Class VI.
“Girls have to travel to the school by autorickshaw, and often get harassed on the way. Men on motorcycles put their hands inside the auto to touch us inappropriately and sometimes even follow us to our homes,” she says.
As a result of this harassment, several parents in Kadarpur choose to keep their girls at home instead of allowing them to complete their education. Worried about their future, over 150 students of the school locked up the gates and staged a demonstration outside its premises on Friday morning.
Even though their protest came on the heels of a similar one in Rewari, where girls eventually went on a fast until their demands were met, the students in Kadarpur insist their movement was separate and had been planned before the one in Rewari became the centre of attention.
Students claim they had made a similar demand “four or five years” ago, which was not fulfilled at that time either. District Education Officer (DEO) Neelam Bhandari, however, says this was because the school did not meet the required criteria for Plus Two classes. “In order for a school to go up to grade XII, there is need for at least 150 students in Classes IX and X. That was not true for this school at the time,” says Bhandari, going on to confirm that the school fulfils this “norm” now.
The protest was finally called off around 3 pm, after students received assurance from authorities that their demands would be considered. Some students, however, remain skeptical.
A student of Class X says, “They have said they will meet our demands, but let’s see… This government talks about Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao, but doesn’t provide the facilities to fulfil that slogan. Agar betiyan ghar pe baithin hain toh unhe padhaoge kaise, bachaoge kaise?”