Study says they were tormented physically and emotionally by teachers, classmates

The day-long public hearing held here on Sunday on ‘child rights violations’ and the discriminated children subsequently becoming school dropouts may pave way for the victims entering the school premises once again in the next couple of weeks, if the recommendations given by an expert panel that listened to the affected children are transformed into action.

The Palayamkottai-based Human Rights Education Protection Council, in its survey conducted in 52 villages of the district, claimed that 1,680 Dalit school dropouts had been identified. Based on the case study submitted by the organisation, the public hearing was conducted. Of the 23 Dalit school dropout cases presented at the meet in document format, 19 were from Arunthathiyar community and 10 of them appeared before the panel to narrate how they were tormented physically and emotionally in their schools by teachers and their classmates. All the students said that they were referred repeatedly by the name of their caste and discriminated.

When Nagaraj, a former fifth standard student of an aided primary school at Kalakkad, alleged that he was beaten by his teacher without any valid reason and the pain of being beaten up in front of his classmates ultimately drove him out of the school, Dr. Vasanthi Devi asked the official from Office of District Elementary Educational Officer to place under suspension the teacher, Rajeshwari, and to make enquiries with the Headmaster.

The former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University said that the teachers, besides clearing the doubts of slow learners by conducting special classes, should also teach students, particularly to the socially and economically marginalised ones, special skills and equip them to face the competitive situations in future.

K. Sekar, former 9th standard student of Theerthapathi Government Higher Secondary School at Ambasamudram, explained his case of discrimination on the school premises and how his transfer certificate was issued to him during the midway of academic year. P. Murugan, District Educational Officer, Cheranmahadevi Educational District, assured that he would conduct a comprehensive enquiry before Friday and submit a report to the panel.

The officer also assured that he would take immediate steps for readmitting the students in the schools of their choice to avoid recurrence of such unpleasant incidents in future.

Former Readers’ Editor of The Hindu S. Viswanathan, one of the panel members, suggested that the human rights activists, besides assisting the victims to file complaint with the police immediately after the incident, should also inform the officials of Department of Education about these uncivilised acts and submit a separate complaint to them.

“Even though the police chose to close the case stating that the complaint was false, education officials cannot do so in a hasty fashion as they will have to take some corrective measures through their department to settle the issue amicably and permanently,” Mr. Viswanathan said.

Tirunelveli MP S.S. Ramasubbu, who inaugurated the public hearing, said that though the governments through their schemes were taking sincere efforts to provide education to all children, the purpose was being defeated by the social discrimination prevailing on the school premises. “If we can provide better education to the Dalit children, it will empower them economically which will automatically ensure a social status for them. Hence, there should be no caste-based discrimination on the school premises. Anyone, including the teachers, violating it should be taken to task. At the same time, the Dalits’ security ensured by the law should not be misused,” Mr. Ramasubbu said.

The MP assured that he would discuss with the Collector the issue of operating more number of buses from Vallam to other areas to enable the students to reach their schools without any hassle.

Panel member and advocate T. Lajapathi Roy said that the victims’ parents and the activists should always take steps for filing of cases against the offenders so that it would gradually put an end to problems of similar nature in future.

Another panel member K.A. Manikumar said that the education officials should be proactive to the complaints of this nature so that it would check the menace of school dropouts.

Speaking to reporters, Dr. Vasanthi Devi said that the human rights education, which had already been included in the school curriculum in 18 States, should be introduced in Tamil Nadu also.

She stressed that complaint boxes should be installed on all school premises so that the victims would come forward to make complaints while concealing their identity.

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