‘Bar on evening classes for girls is likely to derail many a dream’

  • | Sunday | 26th November, 2023

Noida: Sandhya Yadav (23) rushes to her UPSC coaching centre in Sector 2 after completing a seven-hour shift from 10am at a customer service centre in Sector 62. The job, she says, keeps her family afloat and pays for her 13-year-old brothers education. The tuition classes are for me, my aspiration to become an IPS officer, she said. Girls like Sandhya for whom these evening coaching classes open the window to pursuing their dream may soon have to revisit their goals as safety guidelines issued last week as part of the Safe City Project restrict private coaching institutes in the state from holding late evening coaching classes for girls. The guidelines have left Radha, a young woman who is balancing household duties and tuition classes perplexed. The term safe city indicates a place where I have the liberty to move around as I wish, feel safe and go anywhere, any time. Caging girls or women at home after sundown wont make any city safer, the 20-year-old from Mamura village in Noida told TOI on Saturday. Daughter of a domestic helper, Radha attends college in the morning and spends afternoons at home taking care of her four-year-old sister. Evening is the only time she has for preparations for a crack at the state public service commission. I can go to my coaching classes only after my mother returns from work at 6.30pm. If there are any regulations to prohibit girls from taking evening classes, it would be very difficult for me to complete my graduation, she said. Radha agreed that roads at night arent the safest, saying thats where attention should be focused. "Im worried all the time, especially for my mother who walks back home alone after sundown. There are days when I dont get any autos or e-rickshaws while returning from my tuition classes. I get worried on such days, she said. Eight out of 10 girls who regularly attend coaching classes in the evening this correspondent spoke to said they had safety concerns while commuting late, but stressed that abolishing evening classes was no solution for that. The main roads are safer. They have lights. But the narrow lanes inside the villages are completely dark in the evening. I have often been harassed while returning home. Roads need to be made safer for girls instead of asking us not to go out in the evenings, said a 16-year-old girl who lives in Maksudpur and is preparing for JEE. The order issued by the district magistrate said: Coaching (centres) in which the girl students are studying, should be conducted till 8pm. If any coaching (centre) is found operating after 8pm, punitive action will be taken against them. Referring to the order, district inspector of schools Dharamveer Singh said classes for boys can be conducted after 8pm. For girls, there can be online classes, which they can attend from their home. The Smart City Project also mentions the installation of CCTV cameras at entry-exit points of every education institution including all schools, colleges, universities, and coaching institutes and strengthening the anti-Romeo squads. Earlier this year, coaching centres in Noida and Greater Noida faced an audit, measures taken in the wake of a blaze at a building housing three coaching centres and several commercial offices in Delhis Mukherjee Nagar in June. DM Manish Verma told TOI, The motive of the order is not to restrict anyones liberty to move freely in the city. According to educationists, any discrepancy in means of education, or differentiation in rules for boys and girls, will affect the quality of education. Creating a gender-based restriction, even on class timings, even if well intended, endangers the future of women instead of making them safer. Women deserve safe streets and workplaces at all times, and before that, they deserve an equal chance to occupy both, said Meeta Sengupta, an educationist. Coaching institute owners told TOI that classes for most competitive exams are conducted late evening keeping in mind the need of working professionals. There is nearly a 40:60 ratio of girls and boys who attend late evening classes from 7-9 pm. There are women teachers as well who take these classes. We do not force anyone to take classes at any particular hour. It is a students choice, the owner of a private coaching institute in Ghaziabad said. Activists said well-lit streets and police patrolling rather than night restrictions would make cities safer for girls. To make a city safe, there should be provisions for late-night transport, affordable buses and auto services for women. It should be ensured that every institute has a sexual harassment complaint committee, Kavita Krishnan, a womens rights activist, said. A senior police officer in Noida said police had not received any such order, but as per the Safe City guidelines, we have to ensure that women feel safe all the time. If there is any institute where there is a gathering of female students, we first have to identify them and increase patrolling, deploy PCRs and make sure that an anti-Romeo squad is there".

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