Teacher attitude drove them away

CHENNAI OCT. 5. "My classmates used to call me names for being dull in my studies. Even my class teacher did not rebuke them and justified the remarks. I was too ashamed to continue my studies. Now I work as a cobbler with my father."

Fourteen-year-old Ramachandran gave vent to his sorrow at a public hearing on Corporation schools organised today by the Tamil Nadu Primary School Improvement Campaign (TanPIC). He dropped out of the Corporation Middle School in Mettupalayam, west Saidapet, three months ago. "I still want to continue with my studies. Only my father would not allow me to rejoin now", he said. Several school dropouts, all from the Chennai Corporation schools, joined Ramachandran as they reeled out several reasons for discontinuing their studies. Reasons varied from case to case _ while some children found the teachers "too harsh", there were also some parents who felt that schools were under-staffed and adequate attention was not paid to the students.

The insistence to produce community or other certificates at the time of admission was pointed out by many NGOs as a major deterrent in getting the economically poor students to schools.

According to a study made by an NGO, TN-Forces, more than 27 per cent of population in the State constituted of migrant labourers. A sizeable number of migrated labourers were present in Chennai but owing to their living condition, they did not possess documents such as community certificates.

One such instance was the case of Saravanan, a class IV student of the Corporation High School in Jafferkhanpet. In April this year, a fire in Ambedkar Nagar, K.K.Nagar, forced Saravanan and his family to shift to Mettupalayam. When he tried to get enrolled in the Corporation school near his new residence, the authorities asked him to produce community certificate. He did not possess one and was forced to drop out. Today, even while he yearns to get back to the Corporation classrooms, he is catching with studies at an evening school run by an NGO, Nessakaram.

"Corporation schools or any other government schools should not reject admission on such grounds. This has been a long-standing demand and the government has already announced its stance that such documents are not necessary during admission," said the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women chairperson, Vasanthi Devi, who was one of the jury members for the public hearing.

The former civil servant, A.K.Venkatasubramanian, said the Chennai Corporation was directly responsible for the fall in infrastructure facilities at its schools.

It had violated the clauses of a G.O. (no.65) passed in March 1999 that stated that tax collected for education purpose should not be spent for other purposes.

"According to its budget estimates, a sum of Rs. 31 crores of the money collected through education tax has been used to pay terminal and retirement benefits. Also, money from elementary education budget has been transferred to general fund. This should be stopped," he said.

The Juvenile Welfare Board chairperson, Vidhya Shankar, another member of the jury, said corporation school teachers were paid better than those in private schools.

The civic body's deputy commissioner (education), Dharmendra Pratap Yadav, who attended the inaugural session of the public hearing, said though the civic agency managed schools suffered on account of infrastructure, there were still some positive features.

The school dropout rate had dropped from 34 to 19 per cent. Further, he said the civic agency was open to working in tandem with the NGOs.

Later, while reacting to the proceedings of the public hearing, Mr.Yadav claimed that the Corporation schools were not demanding any certificate at the time of admission.

After Mr. Yadav left the venue of the public hearing, no Corporation officials were present to respond to the issues raised by the participants.

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