Asked to wear coat over saree, Kerala school teacher quits job alleging discrimination

The teacher alleged that the school discriminated on the basis of gender against teachers and students.
Kerala school teacher Rani Joseph
Kerala school teacher Rani Joseph
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A higher secondary teacher resigned from her post alleging gender discrimination after the school authorities rebuked her for not wearing an overcoat over a regular outfit, which the institute has made mandatory for its female teachers. All female teachers are supposed to wear the coat over the saree or salwar kameez of their choice while at school.

Rani Joseph, who joined as an English teacher in the higher secondary section of the Little Flower Public School in Kollamula, Pathanamthitta in May, says she was against the rule as it was discriminatory. The school is owned and managed by the Society for Education and Charity under the Claretian Missionaries, St Thomas Province.

The teacher also alleged that the school practised gender discrimination, not only in the case of teachers but also with students. “There are separate doors in classrooms for girls and boys. Similarly they have separate stairs, and teachers are assigned to inspect whether girls use the stairs meant for them and vice versa,” she added. She also said that girl students are policed if they talk or walk together in the school.

Rani said she had given measurements for the coat when she joined the school. Though she got the coat stitched in the first week of September, she couldn't wear it as it needed alterations.

“The school principal kept reminding me about the coat all the time, which I felt was bordering on harassment. He would ask about it even in front of my students. On September 14, he pulled me up in front of the students and asked me quite rudely why I wasn’t wearing the coat. He behaved as if I was wearing something vulgar,” Rani Joseph, who is also an alumni of the school, told TNM.

Rani had previously questioned why the overcoat rule existed only for female teachers. “Many answered saying that students look at teachers very badly. I tried to make them understand it is the students who need to be given sex education, rather than changing the dressing style of teachers,” Rani said.

Rani said some members of the school’s Parent Teacher Association came to meet her for a negotiation discussion after her resignation. “But I cannot take it lightly, as what happened to me is serious workplace harassment,” she said.

TNM reached out to Little Flower Public School authorities for their response on the allegations. Both Principal Fr Soji Joseph and Fr Mathew Panackakuzhy, the school manager, refused to comment on the issue.

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