“We saw no reason to separate them in sports or class. There is an opportunity for them to talk, interact etc. If you cordon them off, what is the use? The point is to prove that girls and boys are equal.”
The Sainik school in Chhingchhip, Mizoram has made a historic change in its admission procedure. For the first time in 50 years, the strictly all-boys institution has opened its doors to girl students.
VK Krishna Menon, the former Defence Minister of India, had set up Sainik schools with the aim of reducing the regional and class gaps among officers in the Indian military. The first school was established by the Central government in Satara, Maharashtra in 1961. Since then, a total of 28 such schools have been set up across India, all under the purview of the respective state governments and the Ministry of Defence. Only the Lucknow Sainik school, which comes under the state administration, is an exception.
While the Lucknow school admitted 17 girls in Class 9 earlier this year, it was the Sainik School Chhingchhip, which was established in May 2017, that was selected as a pilot school to include girls into Sainik Schools.
In August last year, the school issued a notification informing that 10% of the total class strength will be reserved for girls.
“For us, 10 per cent of the total class strength meant six girls. Since we were a new school, we had only two batches: Class 6 (with 60 students) and Class 7 (100 students). Imagine six girls among 154 boys!” Lt Colonel Inderjeet Singh, the former principal of the Mizoram school, told the Indian Express.
Within a month of issuing this notice, the school had received applications from 31 girls from across the state who appeared for the written entrance exam along with the boys. 21 of them were selected for an interview, and 6 of them—Zonunpuii Lalnunpuia, Jurisa Chakma, Malsawmthari Khiangte, (11-year-olds) and Alicia Lalmuanpuii, Lalhminghlui Lallianzuala and Elizabeth Malsawmtluangi (12-year-olds)—were finally given admission.
Each girl comes from a different background, but in the school, they are family.
In the four months since they have joined, the girls have faced certain challenges, but the school authorities are taking measures to tackle each one of them.
#BreakingBarriers Six girls along with 54 boys join Sainik School ,Chhingchhip , Mizoram , after a tough selection process , making it first State in
country to induct girls @nsitharaman @easterncomd @SpokespersonMoD @adgpi @PIB_India @DefenceMinIndia @MinistryWCD pic.twitter.com/ggoQexrCkw
— PRO Defence Meghalaya (@proshillong) June 9, 2018
“The first thing we did was beef up security for the building designated to be the girls’ hostel. “We had two sets of wired fencing. We then readied the indoors… set up a game room. The point was to make the girls feel at home,” said Colonel Singh to IE.
The experience of having six girls join a school which always only had male students was a bit unfamiliar for the boys too. While some are still baffled with the change, there are others who are happy to have girls play, study and exercise with them like equals.
“They came during our tea break… The only girls we were used to seeing were our teachers. It was odd,” says Lalruatkima, a class VII cadet.
But the girls are slowly blending in and are getting used to the routine of waking up at 5:30 a.m., joining the PT drill early in the morning and attending classes later.
The teachers are cautious as not to pamper them too much, but understand that they will need some extra attention initially. Jurisa, for example, started menstruating right after she joined the hostel and although she called home to talk about it, she wasn’t allowed any more time than the other students.
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Speaking to IE, Lt Colonel UPS Rathore, the current principal of the school said, “We saw no reason to separate them in sports or class. There is an opportunity for them to talk, interact etc. If you cordon them off, what is the use? The point is to prove that girls and boys are equal.”
The girls, meanwhile, know that the Sainik school has given wings to their dreams. While aware of the fact that they are making history, they wear it lightly on their shoulders.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)