The district panchayat’s proposal to introduce overcoat for teaching staff in government and aided high schools and higher secondary schools in the district has at best evoked mixed response.

District panchayat president Eldhose Kunnappillil has convened a meeting of representatives of teacher’s organisations to discuss it on Friday. This will be followed by a meeting of PTAs and school managements.

“We will place the proposal before the district panchayat committee and a circular will most probably be issued next month if a consensus is reached. We have discussed the proposal with the deputy director of education, and district education officers and assistant education officers. They all responded positively,” Mr. Kunnappillil said.

A design of the proposed overcoat will be exhibited at Friday’s meeting. It will have the message Mata Pita Guru Deivam inscribed on it. “There is no insistence on the colour of the coat, which the schools can choose according to their tastes,” Mr. Kunnappillil said.

He said the proposal was aimed at enhancing the dignity and self confidence of teachers. He cites how the overcoat worn by doctors and nurses added to their professional image.

Defending the proposal, Mr. Kunnappillil said overcoats were being used by teachers in many CBSE and ICSE schools. Overcoat is being recommended for both male and female teachers .

Mr. Kunnappillil reluctantly admitted that the proposal is also meant to address teachers’ complaints about indecent comments and peering glances by students, especially while writing on the blackboard.

K.N. Sukumaran, State president, Kerala School Teachers Association, shot down the proposal outright regarding it as impractical and retrogressive.

“There is no need to enforce a dress code for the teaching community. Besides, any such reforms should be implemented across the State rather than on a piecemeal manner by a local body,” he said. Mr. Sukumaran also criticised the generalisation of the behaviour of the student community just on account of some rare instances.

T.P.M. Ibrahim Khan, president of the Kerala CBSE School Managements Association and chairman of the Al-Ameen group of educational institutions where overcoat for teachers was introduced almost two years back, defended the proposal. He said Al-Ameen educational institutions introduced it for twin reasons – to bring in a common uniform for teachers and to fend off indecent glances towards teachers.

“The system has been very well accepted by the teachers. Of course, we allow exemptions from wearing the coat on health reasons,” Mr. Khan said.

Deepa Santhosh, a higher secondary school teacher in an aided school for more than two decades, said there was no point in enforcing an artificial shield against students’ glances. “If anything, it will only further their curiosity. An overcoat is unfit in our climatic conditions. Besides, I have never come across any indecent behaviour from students during my career,” she said.

Lissy Jose, member, State Women’s Commission, said there was nothing wrong in introducing an overcoat if it is meant as way to enhance professional dignity just as in the case of doctors and nurses.

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