The Weekend Leader - The Weekend Leader's Be the Change program at Mahatma Montessori Schools, Madurai

School students express concern over women’s safety in India

Gokul Vannan   |   Madurai


Vol 10 | Issue 47

Lack of safety for women in public spaces is a matter of serious concern in India, said students of Mahatma Montessori Schools in Madurai.

“We are unhappy about the precarious condition of women in our society,” the students said, responding to a question from Senthilkumar Gopalan, founder of ‘Payir’, a rural NGO, during the `Be The Change’ address series.

Senthilkumar Gopalan, founder of Payir, addressing students of Mahatma Montessori Schools, Madurai (Photos: Suresh Babu)

A social initiative of The Weekend Leader, the ‘Be The Change’ programme was organised at five schools of the Mahatma Montessori group on 11 and 12 November, 2019, to help school students interact with inspiring personalities.

“All this happens because we men think we are superior beings and we can do anything for our pleasure,” pointed out Gopalan, a mechanical engineer by education who founded ‘Payir’ in 2004 to help rural communities after having worked for some of the top notch companies in India and the USA.

When Gopalan asked the students how they were going to address the issue of women’s safety, the boys said men should change their attitude towards women, drawing a cheerful round of loud applause from the girls.

Another question, `Are you happy about the socio-economic and cultural changes that are happening in our country,’ however was received with a stony silence, which was dispelled by Gopalan as he started explaining the growing disparities between the rich and the poor.

The one minute of silence that gripped the auditorium was due to the students apparently trying to suppress their disappointments over the unsavoury changes happening in the country.

Students flipping through the pages of The Lead Star magazine, the print partner for the event

“Capitalism per se is not bad, but in its present form, under which only few people are trying to control the entire resources by exploiting the vast majority, it is a serious concern for all of us,” Gopalan said.

He urged the students to follow the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, in building a better India for future generations since the ‘current model of development’ completely destroyed Mother Nature.

“Gandhiji’s major contribution to the society is his thoughts on `Preserving the Nature,’ which are often overlooked,” he said and asked the students to read Gandhi’s works.

Sharing the sentiments of the distinguished speaker, the students said the education system in the country didn’t want to nurture creative or skilled people. Instead, educational institutes preferred to admit students who could pay capitation or exorbitant fees.

“The government which frames educational policies for us never bothered to listen to our views before framing those policies,” said the students.

The students also expressed their discontent over the political class, which did not care for the welfare of common people. “Is not caste discrimination bad for our society?” asked a student, wondering ‘why caste system is practised at all.’

Students enlivened the event with their insightful questions to Gopal on various social issues 

Responding to the question, Gopalan said that it was a serious offence to discriminate people based on caste and added: “Everybody should be treated equally.” He urged the students to read the books of the Father of Indian Constitution, Dr B R Ambedkar.

Nearly a thousand students from five schools – Mahatma Montessori School (affiliated to CBSC) and Mahatma Montessori Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Surveyor Colony Campus, Mahatma Montessori Matriculation Higher Secondary School, K K Nagar, Mahatma Montessori Residential School (affiliated to CBSC) and Mahatma Global Gateway (affiliated to CBSC), Veerapanjan, attended the ‘Be The Change’ events, held over two days.

The students were inspired by the work carried out at the grassroots level by Payir, which seeks to improve the access and reduce the barriers in creating an equitable society.

Gopalan's thoughts on women's safety drew loud applause from the girl students  

Payir offers a variety of opportunities for rural communities in health, education, nutrition, livelihood, farming and other aspects of pastoral life, incorporating social justice in each of its initiative.

The teachers from the schools appreciated The Weekend Leader for organising the programme, `Be The Change’ that promoted positive thinking among students. The Lead Star was the print partner for the event.

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