In 2006, the school wouldn’t let them stand at their gate, watchmen would shoo them away. When, after several protest demonstrations, they were finally let in, they were curtly told seats for weaker sections had already been filled. Not a single child from their slum, the only one in the vicinity, had however been admitted.
The next academic year, hundreds of them gathered outside the school on the first day the forms were distributed. “Ryan International was so fed up that they asked us to write our children’s name on slips, place them for the draw and pick them ourselves. This time all the seats meant for weaker sections went to children from our slum,” recalls Sunita, laughing. Her husband is an auto-rickshaw driver and her son now studies in Class III at the school in the Vasant Kunj locality of southwest Delhi.
“When the activists first asked us to fill applications in these schools, we thought they were mocking us and we abused them roundly, asking them to get lost. When they still didn’t leave, we ignored them. But they didn’t give up and today we are so glad they didn’t,” says Malik, a vegetable vendor.
“We couldn’t imagine stepping inside the school,” he goes on to say. “But now my daughter goes there every day to study and speaks such good English, like they do on TV.” His eight-year-old daughter studies in Class II at the Vasant Valley school, in the same area.
Over 200 children from Rangpuri Pahari, the area Malik and others live in, now go to the several private schools in and around here, among them Ryan International, Bloom Public School, Vasant Valley and Delhi Public School. The parents in the slum have come together to form the Sajag Society, an association of EWS parents, to discuss their problems, help each other and encourage more children from the slum to exercise their right to education. Delhi today records the highest number of EWS admissions in private schools across the country.
Yet it isn’t easy for the parents. They still have to pay through their nose. “We don’t have to pay tuition fee, but we still spend about Rs 8,000 a year. Books cost up to Rs 5,000 a year. The uniform does last for over a year because the material is good, but they cost around Rs 1,500 for each set. Shoes again cost around Rs 800,” lists out Renu, who works as a domestic help.
Even as the government has ordered schools to provide free (no fees) education, including free books and uniforms, few schools pay heed to the provision. And the centralised system, which ensures admissions based on a lottery, doesn’t allow parents to select a school based on affordability. Vasant Valley, parents say, is the only school in the area which has provided free uniform for the first time this academic year. dps, on the other hand, distributes books of senior students to the poorer students, instead of giving them free books as per the law.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
This is a great news. And it should be extended to every private school in India. People must demand their rights what is allowed to them by the laws of the land.
Looking at the picture, yellow school buses, first I thought it was school in USA. It appeared to be a lowly poor neighborhood because brown skineed children looked like hispanics. Then I realized this is India where a section of Indians lording over the rest. Or may be it is America of 1950s and 60s with segragated schools. It is long way for India ...
Good to see change ... even if small and slow .... a drop at a time makes an ocean.
1 person 1 vote and education might prove the great leveller in our society, a deeply unequal one producing near perfect heirarchical beings.
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