How a ‘rich’ school tagged poor students

New Delhi : St. Andrews Scots Senior Secondary School, a posh school in east Delhi, boasts of “providing value-based education” to its students but is under the scanner of a child rights panel – for tagging poor students.

The school admits poor students under the legally bound 10 per cent freeship quota – fee waiver – for economically disadvantaged children.

But the students, their parents and child rights activists allege that the school discriminates against poor kids, profiles them on the basis of their socio-economic status and makes them wear tags showing they have been admitted under the quota.

The children are made to wear an ink mark “F/S” , denoting freeship, on their shirt collars to distinguish them from the rest of the children.

Parents of some of the poor students approached NGO Pardarshita that helped in filing a complaint with the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR). As soon as the rights panel started probing the matter in May and issued notice to the school, the tagging system was immediately done away with.

“We issued notice to the school after we received a complaint that the EWS (economically weaker section) students were discriminated by teachers. The school has given its explanations which were unconvincing,” DCPCR chairman Amod Kanth told IANS.

“The matter is under probe. The categorizing of students is illegal,” said Kanth.

Officials of Pardarshita allege that some of the students were even segregated and kept in a separate room during school hours.

Ritu Mehra of Pardarshita said her organization came to know about the discriminatory treatment after three of the children and their parents came forward and sought help.

The three children stay in the Indira Camp in east Delhi.

She said all the children from Class 1 to 5 admitted under the quota were forced to sit on the floor and not even allowed to use the school toilets.

Suman, a resident of Indira Camp in east Delhi, has her daughter in preparatory class of the school. She has a more shocking story to share.

“My daughter was not allowed to interact with other kids for around one and a half months because they thought she stinks. The school tagged her ‘F/S’ on her uniform,” Suman told IANS.

She said that her daughter was even bribed by school authorities to lie before the rights panel if its officials come for inspection. “They gave chocolates to kids to lure them and promised a picnic if they don’t complain and lie before the investigating officers,” said Suman.

And it didn’t stop with bribing. What followed, according to parents, were threats if the charges were not taken back.

“On May 28, a teacher from the school came to my house and threatened of dire consequences to my kids if we don’t take back the complaint,” said Savita Verma, whose daughter is also in preparatory class.

Anita Mishra said her son in Class I and daughter in preparatory were not allowed to attend prayer meetings because they “lacked proper etiquettes and manners”.

But the school authorities deny the allegations. They said keeping these students away and teaching them in separate rooms was an acclimatization process to familiarize them with the school culture.

“The school has taken a very positive step to make the students feel comfortable in their classes by organising these remedial classes. We teach manners and etiquette to these kids. However, when the parents started complaining about it, we stopped,” Principal P.L. Rana told IANS.

Asked about the tagging, Rana said: “We never tagged any students. The F/S was written on the collar of their shirts for security reasons so that they don’t get lost and after school they can be handed over to their parents. We write route numbers on the newly admitted nursery and primary classes students.”

The school charges around Rs.2,500 a month from its normal students as tuition fees.

(Source: IANS)

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