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.

Incidentally, this school is part of the Karnataka Unaided School Managements’ Association (KUSMA) that is vehemently opposed to implementation of the RTE quota of 25 per cent in city schools. Several schools under KUSMA, including this one, remained closed for the second day as part of the association’s weeklong protest against implementation of the RTE.

Tulasi said she was shocked on seeing her daughter’s hair when she returned from school on Friday evening. “We went to the school to enquire why our children were treated this way. However, the school had no convincing response,” she said.

Nayaz Pasha, another parent, said the management claimed that other children might have cut off their children’s hair. “When we asked them why our children were not given neckties or belts, like the other children, the teachers asked us to raise these issues at the monthly parent-teacher meeting. However, over the past one-and-half-months, we have not been called for any meeting,” he claimed.

The former Karnataka Minister, B.T. Lalita Naik, told The Hindu that the private school was perpetuating a new form of untouchability by cutting off the students’ hair. “This is inhuman, and children are being traumatised. It is clear that these private schools do not want children from poor and backward communities. There is no equality in education imparted in these schools.”

Ms. Naik said a few progressive leaders had submitted a complaint against the school to Tushar Girinath, State Project Director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. It would be forwarded to Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Vishweswara Hegde Kageri. “We were told that Mr. Girinath has sought the school’s response within 15 days.”

M. Gopalakrishna, Block Education Officer, North 1 division, said the jurisdictional Deputy Director of Public Instruction received a complaint from the parents of these children on this incident, and also a counter complaint from the management about “harassment” by members of a local organisation. The department was not able to investigate the matter as the school was closed as part of the weeklong protest.

Kumar G. Nayak, Principal Secretary, Department of Education, maintained that if the incident had taken place, it was a violation of the RTE. “The RTE clearly states that children admitted under quota should not be discriminated against. We will initiate action after an enquiry...”

Though the school was not available for comments, A. Mariyappa, KUSMA secretary, responded: “If it is true, it is wrong. Schools should not discriminate against the children. We will enquire into the issue. If it is true, we will initiate action against the school management, even though they are members of our association.”