Yesterday, this paper ran a front-page story on Mount Mary High School in Malwani (no connection to the church) asking students to raise Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 each for the school’s renovation. Students were allegedly taken in batches to the Bandra fair and made to ask for donations there. Meanwhile, parents were not even told that this was happening. They expressed shock and surprise when they learnt what their children were being made to do.
The school had asked the children to raise funds for the school’s renovation and had adopted the tactic of taking the kids to the fair when not all of the students could do so.
Though the school claimed that the donations were voluntary, educational institutions must desist from asking students for money to fund renovations. The donations may be voluntary, but young children feel intimidated or feel some pressure to contribute.
At that age, there is a lot of fear of comparisons being made and students feel pressured when they see others paying up. The same goes for parents too, given the intense competition in our educational system. Despite all reassurances, they may feel that their child would be targeted if they are unable to make the donation.
It is also shocking and unacceptable that the children were taken to a fair to ask for donations from strangers. While teachers accompanied the children, parents not being told about this is inexplicable. It is also very dangerous to take children to public places to ask for donations. While they may be supervised by teachers, children can get lost or separated from the group at a crowded fair. It is also difficult to imagine that strangers would agree to give donations when approached arbitrarily. The children are in danger of receiving a rude or angry response.
The school must find other avenues to raise funds. The parents are right in protesting against the school and they must have a dialogue with the authorities. The school cannot feign ignorance and in fact, should make an effort to see that this is never repeated.