Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Anti-RTE Segregationists

This Saturday past, I attended a talk by Shanta Sinha and others on the Right to Education Act. The session was supposed to have more stake-holders involved: Principals of schools, perhaps school children themselves, other educationists. Instead, there were the usual suspects: members of Apna Watan, which had organised the talk, and a few others.

Shanta Sinha said, commenting on the audience, that she wished there were more non-converts, because she was tired of speaking only to those who were already on the same page as her on the RTE.

If only she knew. Five or six people stood up to ask questions at the end of her talk, and all of them proudly declared their position as non-converts. One Principal of a school made me feel physically ill by talking about how her school has adopted 11 schools in Mehboobnagar district and how there were no toilets even because, you know, Bad, Naughty Government.

Another lady asked earnestly, what was to be done about all these entitled children who passed every grade no matter what, because schools were no longer allowed to fail anyone.

As if adopting rural schools can shift the reponsibility of this elite school to admit 25% of non-fee-paying children into their own school slap-bang in the middle of Banjara Hills.

As if asking pseudo-pedagogical questions is proof that the RTE cannot work.

If we want to know what all these sophisticated diversions amount to, we only need read this piece in today's Hindu. Read and tell me it doesn't make you sick.

Four children have been forced to attend their school here in humiliation after the private institution allegedly cut off tufts of hair on top of their heads. This was done to reportedly distinguish these children, admitted under the Right to Education (RTE) quota, from other students. This shocking fact was disclosed here on Tuesday. 

According to the parents of these children, all in standard I in the school at Nandini Layout, the children admitted under the RTE quota are made to stand separately during the assembly and their lunch boxes are checked before they enter their class. They allege that the names of their wards have not been entered in the attendance register. The school reportedly makes them sit in the back benches and they are not given any homework.

One of the arguments I have heard in recent months, piously uttered, is that it is this generation of children that will suffer the most by being taken so far out of their comfort zone.Someone at that talk even said that when these children grow up, they don't want to go back to their villages because they no longer fit it.

To all of which Shanta Sinha said that it's not the children of the poor who are not used to being out of their comfort zone - every day, everywhere they go, they face discrimination.

This story makes me so angry. If this is not segregation, I don't know what is. 


JP said...

'To all of which Shanta Sinha said that it's not the children of the poor who are not used to being out of their comfort zone - every day, everywhere they go, they face discrimination.'

Spot on.

A school Yasmine knows of has started integrating children from local communities into their very elite school - but these children are forced to bathe in the school premises before attending classes. What good is giving them access to better education if it at the cost of destroying their self esteem? Except in the case of total unavailability of water, this is just a way to emphasise the point that poor=dirty.

Space Bar said...

Yes. All of this makes me very angry.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it makes me sick.

(I rarely come over to comment because blogger and wordpress seem to hate me and eat my comments on a regular basis, but also wanted to say hello.)

Space Bar said...

Deepa: Lovely to see you here. I had the same problems with Dreamwidth to begin with so I sympathise.

The encouraging thing is, lots of people seem to have picked up on that bit of news, though god knows what will come of it. Today the Principal of that school claimed it all happened in an art class where there happened to be scissors. Huh.