While the Prime Minister is pushing for the 'Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao' campaign, here in Mumbai, a ten-year-old girl is being kicked out of school because she gets no help in studies from her parents — both std IV pass.
Swati with her mother and elder brother in front of Sri Satya Sai Vidya Mandir in Andheri
Last week, when schools reopened after summer break, Swati Kamble was excited to start Std V. But when she got to the school — Sri Satya Sai Vidya Mandir in Andheri — all her excitement was wiped away when she was told she was not fit for Std V as she had failed the school’s internal exam. This is in direct violation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, under which no student can be held back till Std VIII. Equally galling is the school’s response that as a private school, they have to maintain standards in Std X – a class that Swati won’t even qualify for until five years later.
Sri Satya Sai Vidya Mandir in Andheri told 10-year-old Swati Kamble she could not attend Std V as she had not passed the school test, even though the RTE Act makes it clear that no child can be held back till Std VIII. Pic/Prabhanjan Dhanu
Despite knowing that Swati’s parents only studied till Std IV, the school has blamed them for not taking more interest and teaching her at home. Even if her parents had been better educated, they might not have been able to help her, as they have a hard enough time just trying to make ends meet.
Swati’s mother, Rajashree Kamble said, “I work as a domestic help and am the only earning member of the family, since my husband can no longer work after he met with an accident. I am struggling just to support my family.”
‘Parents at fault’
But the school remains unmoved by the family’s hardship. “Swati is not the only child from a poor family. There are other students who come from a similar background. But their parents took efforts to improve the standards of their child, which was not the case with the Kambles. Despite several messages to Swati’s parents, asking them to visit the school, her parents never turned up. Now they are making a noise about the issue,” school principal Asmita Parab told mid-day.
“For the school, it is important to maintain a good passing percentage in Std X. We cannot continue with students who are not able to match the pace of school syllabus and cope with studies,” she added.
One year at stake
The school’s decision to expel her will likely cost Swati an entire year, as no other school will admit her now that the academic year has begun, especially if the school leaves a negative remark on her leaving certificate. No wonder her parents are very upset with the school. “Why did not they tell us in advance that they are not going to admit Swati in Std V? If she is not fit for Std V then on what grounds did the school clear her from Std IV? What kind of test are these children supposed to give to go from the primary section to the secondary section of the same school?” questioned Swati’s mother. The family has now been called for a meeting with the school trust.
The principal tried to justify the school’s stand by saying, “How much can the school do? We are a private school. We have to show good results. Swati managed to reach Std IV thanks to the RTE, which stops us from detaining any student. But before seeking admission in Std V, all students have to appear for an internal school test. If anyone fails the test, he or she is not allowed to go to the next class.” When this reporter cited the RTE Act, under which no student can be held back until they reach Std VIII, principal Parab responded: “It’s not just our school; every educational institute does it.”
Swati’s parents complained to the BMC education department about the ‘inhuman’ action taken by the school. BMC Education officer Prakash Charate told this paper, “The school’s action is inappropriate and against the RTE Act. It is the school’s responsibility to teach children. If any child is weak in academics, the school has to conduct remedial teaching sessions and ensure that the student is at par with what is expected from him or her. Any school cannot expel a child studying below Std VIII.”