“There should be an emphasis on education about the environment, gender equality, respect and value for elders, issues of caste class difference and its flaws,” says BHU Prof. Anita Singh

“There should be an emphasis on education about the environment, gender equality, respect and value for elders, issues of caste class difference and its flaws,” says BHU Prof. Anita Singh

Anita Singh is a Professor in the Department of English and Co-coordinator of the Centre for Women’s Studies and Development at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. Prof. Anita received Fulbright-Nehru Visiting Lecturer Fellowship for the year 2013-2014 at the University of Virginia, USA.

In September 2016, she completed a Major Research Project sanctioned by Indian Council of Social Science Research, on ‘Staging Gender: Performing Women in Ramlila of Ramnagar’. Her two recent edited books are Gender, Space and Resistance: Women and Theatre in India (2013) and Revisiting Literary Theory and Criticism: Indian and Western Perspectives (2018).

She has also published interviews with Indian women theatre artiste in Asian Theatre Journal (University of Hawaii Press) and has contributed in four chapters in Routledge Handbook of Asian Theatre, ed. Siyuan Liu, 2016. Prof Anita was the Guest Editor for the special issue of the Journal Gender Issues (Springer) published in 2018. Also, she was the conference Chair for The Future of Women conference held in Malaysia 2018, 2019 in Colombo, Srilanka and 2020 in Bangalore. Currently, she is a fellow at the Indian institute of advanced study at Shimla. 

At Apeksha News Network, we spoke to the one of the finest professors of the Indian education system, Prof. Anita Singh recently on various topics related to education system in India. Check out the excerpts!

How has been the journey so far for you as an Educationist?

Any journey has its own trajectories and it is seldom all smooth. Mine has been no different in that sense of the terms and had its won share of struggles that I did not warrant and perhaps successes that I may not have deserved.

Tell us about the changes that you have witnessed in the field.

As an educationist, a lot has changed in terms of classroom teachings. Now, they are more interactive and student-focused. I remember when we were students, we had an aura for ‘the teacher’ who was always unchallenged and on a higher pedestal, and the hierarchies in a classroom were quite clearly etched out. Over the years, from my own student days to being a teacher myself, I perceive this difference; I am not the sole reservoir of knowledge but an initiator of knowledge. I see a lot of creative learning that happens in class, which perhaps one did not see in an Indian classroom earlier.

Education, today, is considered as a business. What is your opinion on same?

It is true to some extent. The teachers and the students are alike caught up in this. Every generation has it’s own responses to institutions. Education has ceased to be a hallowed institution – it is almost like an educational business. Concepts of morality ethics and grooming, commonly associated with education are now passé. 

Many cases have been witnessed wherein children take adverse steps like suicide as they are not able to meet the expectations of their family/parents in terms of education. What is your opinion on same?

The pressures of the system are immense. The success stories are applauded and failures are a nightmare. In such a system, a student is pressurized and self perceives his /her capabilities in worldly scale, which can be daunting and disappointing for him/her. Hence, I feel that parents and teachers must be co-operative and help students not just identify their field or excellence, but support in their decision. Moreover, a friendly environment needs to be practiced, wherein students and talk openly with their teachers and parents about the issues they are facing to cope up with the increasing competition and its pressure.

Student politics comes with its own adverse effects on society. How does such issues affect the society?

Student politics is good if it is exercised in moderate terms. But this ideal state seldom happens. Very often we see the nexus of political parties interfering with student’s politics and student politics ceases to be a student affair.  

What are some overlooked issues for the overall education system in India on which you wish to focus and work?

The basic lacuna in our education system is that it does not encourage creativity and application. Rote learning and quoting from authors still play a predominant role. As a result, when the child grows up, he/she is afraid to express her thoughts in an inhibited manner. 

You have been part of the education system for a long considerate time. Education plays a huge role towards the growth of the country, considering culture, youth, etc. What do you feel that what kind of education system does India needs currently? 

Very true! Education does play an immense role. We need a massive drive for education for all. To begin with, there should be an emphasis on education about the environment, gender equality, respect and value for elders, issues of caste class difference and its flaws. Our early childhood education moving up to higher levels need to be attentive to these issues. We have seen enough divisive forces of late, and they seem to be mindlessly proliferating whether it is gender violence or caste atrocities, one never knows where it is all heading to!  

In many parts of India, women are still devoid of the right to education. How does this affect the overall growth of the society and country? 

Yes, it definitely does hinder the growth of the country. Right to education is our basic fundamental right and should be accessible to all alike. To give education to all is to open avenues for all to progress. 

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

As a woman in academics with many years of service, one gains a variety of experiences. Strangely one is always made aware of one’s gender identity, it refuses to melt away or die down. Insidious comments and devaluation are quite normal experiences one has to contend with routinely. For a woman to be successful, she has to work double hard to prove herself, to be immune to statements of harm. These are some strategies I equipped myself with in my long career. 

What is the biggest struggle of a woman today in India?

It is hard to generalize. But yes, for women as I said earlier, she has to excel in whatever she is doing and prove herself to herself that she is strong and capable because all her life she has been told repeatedly that she is weak and vulnerable to harm from outside. Hence, she needs protection and needs to keep herself safe. In order to come out strong, she has to shatter the manifold myths of her purity and protection and safety. 

Movement for equality of women’s rights has been a long battle. How far has this equality game reached or is successful?

I guess women’s movements have come a long way and have indeed changed many entrenched practices and belief system, but it still has a long way to go ahead!

Prof. Anita Singh at 2015 Indian Fulbright Scholar Orientation

It is said that women these days are taking control of their own life and future. How far is it true?

True for some, but it cannot be seen as a universally true statement!

What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?

Confidence, ability, and dignity in all that she does!

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Is it important that we have one?

I don’t much care for the international women’s day. I value and respect its inception but feel dismayed at what it now has boiled down to these days. It has almost become another day for multinational brands to sell their products or fashionable forums to pay lip service to women. The day, if celebrated at all, should be done in all earnestness of purpose!

Which is your next book?

I am currently working on my forthcoming book, Staging Feminisms: Gender, Violence and Performance.

Apeksha News Network congratulates Prof. Anita Singh for her contribution and commitment towards the society in the field of education and welfare of women with her works, and wishes her good luck for her future endeavors!