|Why did Divya and Shams lose their lives despite RTE?
The suicide of 15-year-old Divya Solanki, student of Class VIII after she found that she had failed in social studies by three marks, Mumbai saw its second student suicide within seven days. This was the second time that Solanki was held back in the same class. Earlier, 14-year-old Shams Merchant, student of Class VII who had failed twice in the same class, committed suicide.
The shocking suicides have drawn severe criticism of schools’ tyrannical attitude to ensure 100 per cent result. Reportedly, Divya’s principal said that the school had a good reputation and the Class 10 pass percentage might fall if they allowed such students to pass.
Anuj Kumar Pandey, secretary of the All-India Federation of Parents and Teachers Association said “The suicides are unfortunate and shocking. More so, because The Right of Children To Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) has come into effect from April 1, 2010. But the state government has failed to implement some of the vital provisions of the Act”.
Elaborating on the subject he says, “Section 16 of the said Act (RTE) prohibits holding back/expulsion of child from the school. It specifies that no child admitted in school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education i.e. up to Standard VIII. Since the copies of the said Act were available to all state government authorities, much in advance, it was the duty of the State Government to implement the same in a phased manner. The above mentioned provision under Section 16 of the Act should have been implemented immediately”.
“It is being seen since the past many years that most school authorities become stricter in evaluating answer papers from Standard VII onwards. This is due to the fact that these schools are more interested in showing 100 per cent pass results in board exams. Parents have also raised this issue repeatedly but the Government failed to take any action against these schools. In fact most of the children are being failed/detained or asked to leave the school after Standard VIII, just to maintain 100 per cent result.This is a very serious issue not because Divya Solanki has committed suicide but because of the reason that the children who are slightly weaker in the studies (may be due to the fact that they cannot afford to join coaching classes or private tuitions) are targeted and failed or expelled just to keep the school status high at the cost of children’s future. School teachers are equally responsible for the slow progress of a particular child and should take corrective measures to bring a weaker student at par with others. In the name of maintaining schools’ so-called reputation children are being unduly victimized, leaving them demoralized and depressed,” expresses Pandey.
MS Deshmukh, vice-president of AIFPTA informs “Now that the Union ministry has announced strict implementation of RTE, we on behalf of our association have urged Balasaheb Thorat, minister for school education that those students who fail in a particular subject and are promoted to higher standard must be provided remedial classes by respective schools at no extra charges. Also, we have demanded that each school should appoint counsellors to guide students who are very weak in studies. The minister has assured that our views will be taken into consideration”.
—Jaspal Singh Naol