Education

Discrimination in Nursery Admission Knocking at Supreme Court

Abu Zafar

New Delhi: As the controversy about discrimination and low representation of Muslim kids in private schools of Delhi generates heat, activists with parents of students are planning to knock the door of Supreme Court against this discrimination and for implementation of recommendations of Ashok Ganguly Committee to make sure a transparent procedure of admissions.

Meanwhile social activist and General Secretary of Lok Janshakti Party Abdul Khaliq has written letters to Delhi Chief Minster Ms. Sheila Dikshit and repeated his demand to provide similar opportunity to Muslim students in private schools in the national capital region.

Khalid Hashmi, resident of Zakir Nagar, has applied in ten schools including Blue Bells School International, Birla Vidya Niketan, St. George School and Gyan Bharti School for admission of his child in Upper Kinder Garten (UKG) but he couldn’t succeed.

“They are biased and being Muslim it is hard to get a seat for my kid in any reputed private school in Delhi,” Hashmi, who works as a software engineer, told TCN.

“If you will not give similar facility to our kids then how can we come together to build a progressive society,” asks Hashmi, who has spent thousands of rupees and got around ten days leave from his office for admission of his child in UKG.

Ashok Ganguly, former chairman of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), had introduced the point system in 2006 with an aim to bring in a heterogeneous classroom and promote a transparent system for student’s admission to school but later the Supreme Court stayed it.

Now Khaliq is planning to knock the door of the Supreme Court for fast hearing of the case.

“We are going to knock the Supreme Court’s door soon as we can’t see the discrimination against kids,” he says.

A national daily, The Hindu, published a survey in 18 March which says that out of 92 schools 20 (or their branches) admitted no Muslim child while 17 admitted only one Muslim child each.

According to the survey Springdales School’s Pusa Road branch has received 2,443 applications against 170 seats of which 155 were from Muslim children but the school has admitted only two Muslim children under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category.

Muslims comprise about 15 per cent of Delhi’s population but less than 0.5 per cent of Muslim children have been admitted.

East of Kailash based Delhi Public School received 2997 applications including 269 were from Muslims against 180 total number of seats. This school, which has many Muslims in neighbouring areas, admitted only five Muslim children.

The Kirti Nagar branch of Springdales School admitted no Muslim child while the school’s Dhaula Kuan branch admitted one Muslim child. In Blue Bells of Lajpat Nagar 150 children have been admitted but only two are Muslims and in Sadiq Nagar’s Indian School out of 120 only three are Muslim.

According to the report only Delhi Public School of Mathura Road has good record. It has admitted 65 Muslim children against 240 available seats, 23 and 42 in general and Economically Weaker Section respectively.

Cambridge School has given only 7 pints to the children of Zakir Nagar as neighbourhood points but the distance is less than 2 km only, whereas Friends Colony gets 10 points and Lajpat Nagar applicants are also given seven points.

TCN has tried to contact officials of Cambridge School in New Friends Colony but the administrative officer has refused to comment. “We don’t interact with media,” the admin officer said.

“I would fervently plead with you to direct your education department to critically verify the admission criteria adopted by private schools to determine if they are fair, just and reasonable. It is also important that all schools place on the web full details of their admission procedures, names and addresses of the applicants, names and addresses of those selected and the number of children admitted from different social groups,” Khaliq wrote to Ms Dikshit on March 6.

Earlier Khaliq has written a letter to, Kapil Sibal, minister of Human Resource Development, Salman Khurshid, minster of Minority Affairs and Wajahat Habibullah, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities in mid of March seeking their intervention in this issue.

“There are no reasons to believe that this policy developed after extensive consultation with various stakeholders allows schools to discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion,” he said in his letter.

National Commission for Minorities chairman Wajahat Habibullah responded the letter and told media that it is serious allegation and needs to be scrutinised.

“We have got a copy of the letter submitted to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on the issue and we will examine the matter. It appears as per the report that the minorities are not receiving the benefit of the various policies put in place for their welfare. It is a serious allegation and needs to be scrutinized,” he said.

According to Khaliq the data about the number of Muslim children admitted to nursery out of the total nursery admissions in private schools clearly demonstrates the systematic discrimination and exclusion faced by the Muslim community. It is clear that private schools discriminate not only on the basis of the social status of the aspirants but also on religious ground.

“There are clearly fundamental flaws in the admission procedures adopted by the private schools,” he further stated.

The matter was raised in the Rajya Sabha by Lok Janshakti Party President Ram Vilas Paswan and backed by Nationalist Congress Party General Secretary Tariq Anwar.

“Low representation of Muslim students in Delhi’s private schools is a serious issue and we have asked the government to take up the matter and have it examined. The fact that as many as 20 private schools in the capital have no Muslim student and over 17 have only one is something that has us worried,” Paswan said in Rajya Sabha.

“We want to register our strong protest against the ‘biased’ manner in which nursery admission seats are allotted in the capital. It is unacceptable that minorities are treated so shabbily here in the heart of the country,” Tariq Anwar added.

Hem Borker, a research scholar at University of Oxford has shared her experiences in a column on how the parents of Muslim community facing difficulties to educate their kids. Hem has worked in a fellowship program; the National Child Rights Research by a non-profit organization; Child Rights and You in 2009-10 and conducted a series of interviews with 20 Muslim families of Zakir Nagar.

According to Hem there were a single voice telling “We want schools that do not discriminate against our children.”

“Parents shared experiences of their children being “unnecessarily picked on, classified in front of their peers and harassed by teachers.” In many of the interviews, parents repeatedly made references to derogatory comments made by teachers on the eating and dressing habits (headscarf or extra-long skirts) of Muslim children,” she said.

(Abu Zafar is a Delhi based Freelance Journalist and can be reached at  abuzafar@journalist.com. This article was first published in TCN)

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