When girls learn together, they often learn how powerful they can become.
That was the lesson I learned at Shri Shikshayatan School, a private, all-Girls school in Kolkata, India, to which I was assigned for my Fulbright Teachers for Global Project Fellowship.
“I prefer an all-girls school,” one Grade 9 student said confidently. “I am with my friends and teachers who help me focus on what is important.”
“We are very focused on our studies,” a Grade 11 student proudly told me before a morning assembly. “And here we have educators who are experts in their fields of study, and we have opportunities like you coming here for us to interact with and learn from.”
Every morning, different combinations of grade levels line up in the outdoor gathering area to the sound of beating drums and beautiful, haunting music. The purpose of the assemblies is not only to start the day building community through meditation and reflection, but also to disseminate announcements, celebrate student victories and to give the girls an opportunity to give presentations on the topic of the day which both inform the assembly while giving those presenting vital practice in public speaking.
The Tuesday morning assembly for Grade 6 girls featured a presentation on safety, reminding the young ladies to report any incidents of inappropriate touching or behavior immediately to a trusted resource. The young ladies were also reminded that Kolkata has a special emergency number for women to call if there is no one nearby to help.
The girls also trust each other to talk to and share their ideas and dreams.
“Here everyone understands my issues.” said another girl with a smile.
During a lengthy library conversation that involved black holes, artificial intelligence and opportunities available to young ladies in astrophysics in the United States, a brilliant Grade 12 student told me:
“In India, the examinations we must take are quite difficult. If you don’t study on your subjects properly, if you don’t get focused on those particular subjects, you are missing a lot of things around you. We are responsible to take the opportunities given to us.
“If you get too attached to a person during your studies, you become unfocused. You are a losing the chance to discover yourself and become the person you a meant to become.”
What I discovered was this incredible all-girls school was engaging, elevating and empowering these amazing young ladies to be fearless and pursue their passion and their purpose.