“Why have an exclusive girls school?” We have been asked this question more than a few times since the inception of our school – Viviktha Intentional Residential School for Girls. We were offered the advice that “in these modern times” boys and girls are the same, so there should be no gender discrimination. Yet, we intentionally chose to have an exclusive girls school, hence it is an “intentional” school. Everything in this school is intentionally conceived for girls to thrive fully.
One reason behind the exclusive girls school (though not the main reason) is that most of the visionaries of our school have only boys as their offspring. We all wanted to have girls around us to supply “girl giggle” in our lives. Sudhakar has two sons, Siva has one son, Bela has one son, Anjala has one son, Sujatha has two sons! So, in a way, Viviktha girls are the daughters that none of us ever had.
Levity aside, the idea for the conception of this school was conceived at our other school -The Thapovan School, Hyderabad, India, which is a co-ed facility. The Thapovan School began as a social philanthropic endeavor where most students were first generation school goers – children of farm workers, auto drivers, home-helpers and such. As part of our initiative to engage children in activities that enable them to build leadership skills and to give them exposure to real world situations, we let the children manage special days of the school. Freshers’ Day, Cultural Day, Annual Day, and Sports Day were all handed over to the children, and each event included a set budget to manage. They were to organize the events on their own, without help from the adults at home or their teachers. This included the stage decoration, choreography, purchase of props and decorative gear etc.
It was observed that most of these opportunities were voluntarily taken up by boys only. Girls, although they were encouraged and prompted to take the lead, were noticed standing behind the safety of their male counterparts. They were shy and lacked the confidence to act on their own. The teachers and counselors encouraged the girls to take more active parts, but to no avail. This prompted us to research about this concept around the world. We reached out to schools in all parts of the world, requesting them to share their experiences in regard to boys and girls accepting leadership roles. We contacted exclusive girls schools as well as co-ed schools in roughly equal numbers. In the throes of this project, we came to understand that there are far more exclusive girls schools in the west as compared to the number in Asia or Africa. The feedback from exclusive girls schools has been more conclusive and emphatic in the analysis that girls develop their skills more when they are in the company of girls, than when they are in a co-ed environment.
This, then, prompted us to reach out to girls schools associations of the UK, USA and Australia. They were kind enough to share with us several research studies which suggest conclusively that girls in general fare best in a single gender environment. They are shy and self conscious when they are in their pre-pubertal to pubertal years. They perceive that they are being watched by those of the male gender. They perceive pressure to both look and behave in a certain way around boys. Exposure and close proximity to the male gender before they are emotionally and physically mature causes distraction and a shift in focus from education to other factors. At the age when they are coping with changes in their bodies due to shift in hormones, the “boy factor” does not help much. This does not let them express themselves fully and creatively. The reports emphatically suggest that in an exclusive girls environment, girls are known to get fully involved in any activity, be it science, mathematics, sports or any social activity. In an all female context, leadership roles as well prove to be no problem at all!
In the backdrop of such convincingly large amounts of data from scientific studies, we chose to check out some girls-only schools that were in and around Hyderabad City and we found that there are not that many that offered residential schooling for girls only. We wanted to offer a school which lets the girls discover themselves in their own comfortable environment. At an age where girls are more empowered than any time in the history of mankind, we wanted them to express themselves freely and be able to reach a pinnacle in their own respective fields. And we are supporting them in the best ways that we can, so they can become the best version of themselves without diversion or distraction.
While we do not say that every school has to follow suit and offer single gender schools only, we feel that we are greatly assisting these wonderful human beings, these wonderful little girls that come our way, to becoming all that they can and want to be. We also intend for this all-girls school to be an excellent, exemplary school for others to follow as a model for future all-girls schools!