Friday, September 12, 2008

The discrimination 'curriculum' in M.P.'s schools

The discrimination 'curriculum' in M.P.'s schools

December 2007 - Government schools are meant the 'site of inclusive education', a place where children from all communities, caste, religion, sex can come together for learning and evolving as citizens. Due to their low costs, government schools, are catering to a larger section of society and children, especially in the rural and marginalised areas. However, in Madhya Pradesh, schools are also not able to cut loose from the caste-based discrimination that is already deep-rooted in society.

Situated approximately 10 kms away from Harda block headquarters in Harda district M.P., is Relwa village. It is habited by SCs, OBCs and the general community. Like many other Hindi belt villages, caste based discrimination against Dalits is quite overt here. There are different taps, wells and hamlets for Dalit and non Dalit community. Even the government primary school of this village is not spared from the instances of caste based discrimination.
There are three teachers in the Government Primary School in Relwa; one each from SC, ST and OBC. Dheeraj, a 9-year-old boy, studying in class III in this school is already able to talk about the persistent discrimination in his school. He says that his teacher Kuwar Prasad from an OBC community not only calls Dalit students by their caste name but also makes sure that he never asks Dalit students to fetch water for him. Once he had asked a child from his own community to fetch water for him but that child went to play and asked Dheeraj instead to get water. "When the teacher saw me bringing water for him, he called me by my caste name and said that I don't want to spoil my religion by drinking water from a low caste person and threw away the glass of water out of window," says Dheeraj.

A similar picture is presented during the mid day meal where Dalit children are not only made to sit separately from other caste students but are facing more discrimination. Tarun, a 11-year-old studying in class V in this school explains the humiliation. He says, "We are made to sit separately during the mid day meal because master sahab (Kuwar Prasad) says that other caste children will not eat with us. Also, we have our different utensils in school. Every child is supposed to carry his/her thali (plate) and we are not supposed to mix our thalis with other children in school".

Every child carrying his/her plate and not letting it mix with other children's plates. This is a more subtle form of discrimination, because the plates could easily be kept in school, since that is where the meals are cooked and served.

There's more. Tarun says that the lady serving food, Sevanti Bai, belongs to an OBC community and she never touches our plate while serving Dalit kids. "Also we are served first in our school and therefore, she never gives us more than 2 chapatis while she gives unlimited chapati and meal to children from other communities as they are served later. She scolds us when we ask more chapatis but she happily gives more food to other children." Tarun recognised the injustice. "If rules have to have any meaning and relevance, they should be same for everyone," he says.

Other villages of Dewas district are not very different. A class three student at the Government Girls School is, Bisakhedi, vividily depicts the agony of students belonging to the Dalit community. According to Shivkanya, girls living in the locality from the upper caste are given sufficient number of 'rotis' (Indian breads) to eat, but Dalit children get only one roti. She says, "Girls of upper caste locality don't have their meals with us. They sit away from us. They maintain a distance from us while eating.”

Shivkanya's friends Rani, Laxmi, Chandra, Shivani, Ladkuvar tell that they have to drink dirty water kept in a pot, while upper caste children drink from water tank.

At the Boys Primary School in Bisakhedi, Sachin, Ankit and Mahesh, say that they get beaten up by children of Thakurpura if they happen to pass by their houses. In the school, the teachers also ignore us, they say.

Bisakhedi comes under the scheduled caste dominated Sonkachha development block of Dewas district. The number of upper castes outnumber this village having a population of about five thousand. There are few dalits in the village. The village has separate primary schools for boys and girls. The mid-day meal for both the schools is cooked at the same place and distributed from there. Dalit children say they are discriminated in food and education. The state legislator for Sonkacha, Sajjan Singh Verma, merely says he will look into the matter.

Meera Bai, an elderly woman belonging to this community, is a member of the guardian teacher association, of which Shyam Singh is the president. Meera says that not just the children but the Dalit adults also face discrimination. She narrates an incident from the Republic Day celebrations of 2006, when food was prepared in the school for the children. "Being a member of guardian teacher association, I went to see arrangements and found the number of cooks was not sufficient. I therefore started preparing 'puris'. Shyam Singh, objected at this and said I shouldn't be allowed to cook. I was told to leave the room. Since then I haven't visited the school," she says.

School children along with their utensils at a Dewas school. Pic: Shuriah Niazi.

The situation then escalated to the point that mid-day meals were not served in school for 15 days. Meera Bai's story is supported by Kamla, who lives in a Dalit basti (locality). She says that the discrimination here is not only in schools, but the Dalits are also not allowed to enter the temples. However this story is not limited to Bisakhedi village alone. The situation is more or less the same in dozens of other villages of Dewas district like Chaubara, Dheera, Enabad, Dudhlai, Bairakhedi, Patadia Taj, Khajuria Kanka, Devgarh, Bhoransa and Amlataj. The Dalit children of these villages are humiliated day after day.

In Dewas district, discrimination clearly begins from school. Children learn discrimination here. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a OBC school teacher based in Dudhlai, says that they teachers try to ensure that children sit, play and study together. "But we are helpless before those children who choose to maintain a distance and do not mix up with Dalit kids due to some prejudice. They do not change despite a lot persuasion."

"We reproached the children who discriminate in this way. But we have our own compulsions. We’ve to live in the village, we can’t oppose too much," says the teacher.

However the mid-day meal is quite popular among the children. One reason behind going to school for these children is the meal. But due to the bias against them, these children are not able to get their rightful share in meals.

Sundar Singh of Ambedkar Vichar Manchi, who works in fifty villages of Harda block is of the view that discrimination exists mostly in rural area schools. "If we do something than people from lower caste residing in those villages face the consequences," he added. Singh says they may face social boycott or may be transferred from the area under pressure from people from the upper castes.

This is the grim picture of humiliation faced by Dalit children in Madhya Pradesh. Their only fault is that they are born in a Dalit family and thus are made to bear the brunt in their everyday lives. Dalit children have accepted this discrimination as their fate and have perhaps started believing that it is only the other caste children who can serve and eat full mid-day meals, fetch water for teachers and visit the kitchen.

Schools are meant for making better citizens out of our children but in the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh, they are ending up forging and reinforcing caste-bondages instead. The big question in Dewas is this: What are we promoting through our schools, inclusive education or 'sites of discrimination'? ⊕

Shuriah Niazi

Shuriah Niazi is a Bhopal-based freelance journalist. This article is part of a series on education sponsored by Aide-et-Action India, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to making education the lever for development.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

World Report on Violence against Children

The World Report on Violence against Children provides a more detailed account of the Study presented to the UN General Assembly. The book was launched at the United Nations in Geneva on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day and the 15th anniversary of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

World Report on Violence against Children

The UN Study on Violence against Children

The Study was presented by the independent expert Paulo S̩rgio Pinheiro to the Third Committee of the General Assembly in New York on 11 October 2006. The Study provides an understanding of the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of different forms of violence against children (physical, psychological, and sexual), taking into account five main settings in which violence takes place Рthe family, schools, care and residential institutions as well as detention facilities and prisons, in work situations, and in communities and on the streets. A range of cross cutting issues are featured including trafficking and exploitation, refugees, separated and internally displaced children, and children affected by HIV.

The UN Study on Violence against Children

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mother died, What about the child?

Dt; 14-08-2008

Name of the Village:- Giriliguda Prepared by :- Babu Rao AV

Vanthali Janaki from Griliguda, Andhra Pradesh found Naandi as the substitute for God in her pregnancy. Her family members were contented with the attitude shown by Naandi towards Vanthali . Naandi team meticulously made the entry into the family and considered it as their basic responsibility to look after the pregnant lady. Vanthali gave birth to her child under the close observation of Naandi team. Vanthali's family members were elated and were all praise for the Naandi team who did splendid job by taking all precautions for safe and hygienic delivery.
After two months of delivery, Vanthali decided to visit her parents . In her parents House Vanthali suffered from fever, where there was no one to look after her. Naandi doesn't have any operation centre in the area where Vanthali had gone . One day on their service to Giriliguda, Naandi Team members enquired about Vanthali, where her husband, Hari gave them information about her. Naandi suggested Hari to bring his wife back as soon as possible. The negligence of family members resulted in Vanthali's death.Everyone in her family is feeling dejected. All are concerned about the fate of new born baby and his future.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Education set to become your right

8 Aug 2008, 0016 hrs IST, Akshaya Mukul & Mahendra Kumar Singh,TNN
NEW DELHI: After a wait of more than four years and a lot of dithering and resistance from finance and law ministries, the Union Cabinet will finally take up the Right to Education Bill for consideration on Friday. The bill promises free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years of age by making it a fundamental right.

The proposed enabling legislation, first mooted by the Kothari Commission in 1964 and later passionately argued for by former education minister M C Chagla, will come before the cabinet six years after the 86th Constitutional Amendment making free and compulsory education a fundamental right. Earlier, it was part of Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution.

The proposed bill is expected to be introduced in the Monsoon session of Parliament and is unlikely to meet any resistance since both NDA and Left have been demanding it for a long time. The constitutional amendment was done during the NDA regime but it would be notified only after the enabling bill becomes a law.

The right to education will cost the exchequer Rs 12,000 crore a year. Private unaided schools will also be in its ambit as the school will be required to reserve 25% of seats for poor children in the neighbourhood.

Parents to be part of school panel
To ensure that parents have equal stake in the system, the bill provides for school management committees in all government and aided schools. It would monitor and oversee the working of the school, manage its assets and ensure quality. There is also a provision that teacher vacancy should never exceed more than 10% of total strength.

To monitor the implementation of the law, the bill proposes a national commission for elementary education to be headed by a chairperson who would be appointed by a committee consisting of the PM, leaders of opposition in both houses, HRD minister and Lok Sabha Speaker.

In 2004, when UPA came to power, HRD ministry had asked a committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education headed by Kapil Sibal to do the costing of providing right to education. It had estimated that the RTE cost would hover between Rs 3,21,196 crore to Rs 4,36,458 crore. Government then developed cold feet on the project.

Later, PM Manmohan Singh set up a high level committee under HRD minister Arjun Singh and consisting of finance minister P Chidambaram, Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and economic adviser to PM, C Rangarajan.

Looking at the cost involved, the committee after many meetings proposed that instead of a central law, state governments should enact their legislations to implement the constitutional obligation. Centre was only willing to provide a model bill. Unanimous protests by the states saw the PM swing into action again.

On its part, HRD ministry brought the cost down. One, it realized that already a large section of children in the age-group of 6-14 are covered under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Two, the ministry also studied child population figures and found that there is reverse growth in this age category. HRD brought the cost down to Rs 2,28,674 crore over six years. Still not convinced, finance ministry wanted further cost-cutting.