New Delhi – During a conversation about her life in ninth grade, Nazmeen, a thin 14-year-old with curled hair, began to sob.
“Why did she say that when I still study so hard,” she cried, wiping away her tears.
Her teacher, Nazmeen said, told her she would fail the school exam. “Madame has been teasing like this since sixth grade,” she said.
The dilapidated town on the outskirts of Delhi, where Nazmeen lives, is home to mostly poor Muslim families, who earn their living as laborers, rickshaw pullers, selling cigarettes and repairing bicycles. Their children attend free public schools in the region.
Nazmeen said she got along well with the Hindu students, who make up the majority of the class. But her Hindu teacher, she believes, speaks harsher words and a negative attitude towards Muslim girls.
|The HRW report highlights discrimination such as starvation of food, cleaning of toilets, derogatory remarks and refusal to occupy managerial positions. [Betwa Sharma / Al Jazeera]|
The student recalled being reprimanded for not paying attention in class because she felt weak from the month’s fast. Ramadan, Last year. “Madame said ‘I didn’t ask you to keep roza and that’s not my problem, ”she said.
Nazmeen, whose father is a worker, has requested that the name of her school not be identified because she does not want to be in trouble anymore.
Reports released by the Indian government and human rights organizations in recent years highlight the problem of children from socially excluded and economically marginalized communities who face discrimination in schools.
Children of Dalits – the ancient untouchables – of tribes and Muslims, who face subtle or blatant discrimination, feel humiliated and hurt, and ultimately they no longer want to attend. Dropping out of school makes them vulnerable to child labor and early marriage.
Government the data shows that more than 42 percent of students drop out before completing eighth grade, and over 49 percent drop out before tenth grade.
“They say we’re dirty”
A report released Tuesday by human rights organization Human Rights Watch, “‘They Say We’re Dirty’: Denying Education to India’s Margins,” highlights religious and gender discrimination. caste in Indian schools.
Report based on interviews with students and teachers in four states – Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar – reveals discrimination such as segregation in classrooms, corporal punishment, deprivation of food, cleaning toilets, derogatory remarks and refusal to occupy managerial positions.
“The teacher tells us to sit on the other side. If we sit with others, she scolds us and asks us to sit apart, ”said eight-year-old Pankaj from the Ghasiya tribe of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh state, quoted in the report.
The teacher doesn’t sit down with us because she says we’re dirty. The other children also treat us dirty every day
“Children from the other community don’t play with us and don’t talk to us. The teacher doesn’t sit down with us because she says we’re dirty. The other kids also call us dirty every day, so sometimes we get angry and hit them, ”he said.
Human rights activists fear that discrimination is preventing the realization of the Indian Right to Education (RTE) which aims to provide quality education to all children aged 6 to 14 through primary school (up to in the eighth year).
Since the entry into force of RTE in 2010, almost all children have attended school.
Government data shows that the total number of children enrolled in primary school has increased by 14.6 million over the past five years, of which 56 percent are girls, as well as 55 percent backward castes and 41 percent. of Muslims.
Meenakshi Ganguly, director of Human Rights Watch in India, said it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all enrolled children feel safe and welcome at school, allowing them to complete their studies.
“We are a proudly diverse country, we celebrate this diversity, do it with honor, fairness and not with discrimination,” she said, appealing for zero discrimination at the launch of the report.
But would the call cut into the thick cloak of prejudice?
Experts believe that little has been done to educate teachers, or to detect and prevent discrimination.
Vimala Ramachandran, an education pioneer for more than two decades, said that at present no mechanism exists to monitor teachers and penalize them for discrimination.
“Whenever there is an inspired and good principal, there is no discrimination in schools,” she said.
Mohammed Irshad, 12, who lives in the same locality as Nazmeen, said his teacher beat him regularly.
“I was closing a window for shade, but it broke,” he said. “Sir, really hit me, and he made a fist beating us.” “
Irshad said he interacted normally with his Hindu classmates, but his teacher chose a handful of Muslim boys.
Israt Jahan, her middle-aged mother, said when she complained to the school principal, he made a sarcastic remark about Muslims producing too many children. “It’s my decision how many kids I have, how can he talk to me like that,” she said.
Some teachers do not understand why the children of shoemakers and washers should be educated. Their thinking is “What will they do with the studies?” “
Not addressed ddiscrimination
Annie Namala, executive director of the Center for Social Equity and Inclusion, pointed out that government agencies and civil society groups have conducted studies to address discrimination, but these recommendations are not being implemented.
“None of these really come into the light of day, or translate into any point in the files and papers,” she said.
More and more, parents with even a little extra money choose to send their children to any cheap private school nearby. Thus, public schools are filled with the most marginalized children, while their teachers belong to the upper castes.
Ambarish Rai, national leader of the Right to Education Forum, says these teachers do not understand why the children of shoemakers and washers should be educated. Their thinking, he said, is “what will they do with the studies? “
In addition to child labor, girls who drop out are particularly vulnerable to early marriage. Government data shows that the dropout rate for girls is over 41 percent through eighth grade and over 57 percent through grade ten.
Ramachandran said girls from marginalized communities suffer the most from discrimination. Girls from lower castes are forced to clean the toilets, while girls from upper castes prepare tea for the teacher. In Rajasthan, she pointed out that public girls’ schools do not offer science and math beyond eighth grade.
Nazneem, whose goal is to become a doctor, is stuck between a rock and a hard place. At school, she endures her teacher’s pains, and at home, her mother talks about marrying her in the next two years.
Momina, her middle-aged mother, said girls in their community are now married before they even turn 18 because parents fear leaving their daughters unmarried in an environment where sex crimes are common.
“We cannot risk shame,” she said. “My daughter only goes to school in the back. Otherwise, she stays in the house with me.
Nazmeen wants her teacher to understand that leaving school brings her closer to an early marriage and takes her even further away from being a doctor.
“My future depends on school,” she said.
The names of some students have been changed to protect their identities.
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