Girls in schools run by the Uttar Pradesh government's Primary Education Council in Agra will soon be taught a new subject: cycling.
Around 300 primary schools in Agra district will soon get more than 1,300 bicycles to be used by girls during recess, with a trainer teaching them how to be good cyclists.
The bicycles, each worth around Rs1,750, are to be purchased by the village panchayats within a week.
"The idea is to teach the girls cycling so that they would be able to move around freely, come to school or attend to household chores. This would lead to better attendance in schools," said an education department official who did not want to be named.
This indeed is a unique experiment, which would give women greater mobility and also promote cycling in a big way.
The move would also help open up new shops for cycle repairs, said NGO functionary Roller Singh of Barauli Ahir block, which will buy 99 bicycles.
In the city itself, 16 Nagar Nigam (municipal corporation) schools will get more than 150 cycles.
With so many girls riding cycles on the roads, parents would be naturally inclined to buy more cycles for their children, especially in the rural hinterland, according to a cycle shop owner who is expecting a cycle boom.
Another major decision of the state education department that has affected managements in a large number of private schools is that scholarships will now be transferred directly to the bank accounts of recipients.
The practice hitherto was to disburse scholarship funds through the school managements. This led to the corrupt practice of inflating the number of students and pocketing the money.
"The administration received so many complaints. Now students can open bank accounts with zero balance facility, so corruption will be largely curtailed," explained the official.
The last few days have seen serpentine queues at banks in rural areas.
"The bankers appear tired and perhaps feel it as an unnecessary and unproductive exercise. But the bank staff can do nothing about it. It's a government order and in the next few days all the accounts would be opened," said Subhash Jha, a development functionary of Bah area.
"The scholarship will now go directly to the students' accounts. There are thousands of beneficiaries and even a token help of a few hundred rupees for purchase of books, stationery or uniforms will go a long way in ensuring they complete their education. The drop-out rate is bound to come down," he added.