Protests continue before school gate over alleged hair-cutting incident
The Oxford English School in Nandini Layout in Bangalore, where tufts of hair of some students admitted under the Right to Education Act were allegedly cut to distinguish them from the rest, continued to remain closed on Thursday even as protests were held outside its gate.
On Thursday morning, students who came to the school were turned away by the lone watchman who told them classes were suspended. Students and parents had assumed the school would reopen as other schools affiliated to Karnataka Unaided School Managements Association (KUSMA) — closed since Monday demanding clarity on RTE issues — called off the strike and reopened on Thursday.
Deputy Director of Public Instruction G.C. Chandraiah, who came for an inspection, returned without being able to speak to the school authorities. “I have been trying to contact school secretary Ajith Prabhu and got through his line with great difficulty. When I asked him about the incident and why he did not open the school, his response was that it was closed due to technical difficulties. He said he would respond to the hair-cutting incident on Friday when the school opens,” said Mr. Chandraiah.
Narayan, convener of Dalita Samrajya Sthapana Samiti, which had brought the incident to the media’s notice, said the episode was now being deliberately made out to be an innocent prank played by some children.
“If it happened entirely by accident, why did it happen to only these children?” he asked. “Whether the teacher herself cut their hair or got some other children to do it is not the issue. The fact is that these children were singled out.”
Asked if the children would continue to study in the same school, he said their parents were keen on keeping them there and proving that they could do well.
Madeena Kausar (one of the girls whose hair was cut) said a classmate cut her hair and that of three others while the teacher watched. She said she did not know whether the teacher had asked the student to cut their hair. “The teacher did not say anything when we complained,” she said.
The Nandini Layout police have filed a suo motu complaint against the school management under Sections 323 (assault) and 504 (Intentional insult provoking breach of peace) of the IPC and Section 23 (Cruelty towards children) of the Juvenile Justice (Law and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The inspector said the statements of children and teachers would be recorded once the school reopens.
Congress MLA Dinesh Gundu Rao, who was part of the protest outside the school along with Mahalakshmi Layout MLA N.L. Narendra Babu, demanded an inquiry into the issue by the Education Department and the police and action against the school for remaining closed.
Students of higher classes, who had come expecting the school to be open, were annoyed that their school was in the media glare. “Seeing my school’s name for all the wrong reasons on TV makes me feel embarrassed. I hope that my classes are back on track as soon as possible,” said a Class 5 student.