Millennium Post

RTE could fall victim to discrimination against students: Study

The ambitious Right To Education programme risks falling victim to discrimination against students from poor and marginalised sections of society who complain of being humiliated in classrooms by teachers and barred from accessing toilets, claims an international body on human rights.

Largely blaming discrimination for the high drop out rate, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its report released on Tuesday pressed for framing clear indicators to improve detection and responses to such incidents.

‘Students are made to sit back. Teachers do not pay attention to them as they feel students are not interested in studies... discrimination that make children drop out,’ said Jayshree Bajoria of HRW.

The report has highlighted case studies, examining how the lack of accountability and grievance redress mechanisms are continuing obstacles to proper implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

It talked about a government primary school in Bihar’s Patna district where caste discrimination has led to irregular attendance among Dalit students.

‘I don’t go to school when my clothes are dirty. It happens once or twice a week. The teachers say you wear dirty clothes, go sit in the back,’ the report cited a Dalit child, who also claimed that they are forced to massage a senior teacher’s leg and clean teachers’ toilets.

Drop out among SC and ST at present stands at around 51 per cent and 58 per cent respectively, much higher then 37 per cent for non-SC and ST students.

HRW conducted research in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi, interviewing more than 160 people, including children, parents, teachers, and a wide range of education experts, rights activists, local authorities, and education officials.

‘Dalit children continue to be pushed out of the education system because of discriminatory behaviour of teachers. Dalit children are made to feel inferior in schools and schools reinforce caste norms. When it comes to any manual work such as cleaning of classrooms or picking up garbage, it is always the dalit children who are asked to do so,’ the report said quoting an officer in Bihar who is engaged in ‘Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion’. 

The report also highlighted the tale of two children from a dalit family in UP who said that they were beaten up by the school teacher as they urinated outside the window after being denied permission to use toilet.

‘She hit me so hard with a stick that my hand broke. Even now when I work, I feel the pain,’ Vijay (14) said while sharing his horror to HRW.
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