Friday, June 19, 2009

Father of disabled boy in India accuses school of discrimination

From the Times of India:

CHENNAI, India -- It was a rude awakening for the parents of Vishal, a physically challenged nine-year-old, when they tried to get him admitted to a school
in the neighbourhood in which they were living in.

It all began when Annadurai R, the father of the boy, tried to get his two sons admitted to G K Shetty Vivekananda Vidyalaya Junior College in Ambattur West as he believed the children would get a holistic education in a CBSE school. Vishal cannot walk without a walker or climb stairs without assistance. The father wanted to put his two children, Vishal and Vignesh, in class IV and LKG respectively, at the school as it had a good reputation.

While Vignesh was given admission to LKG, Vishal was asked to appear for an entrance test for admission to Class IV. "Vishal was supposed to take the test on June 3. I have been trying to meet the school principal since April to explain my son's medical condition to him, but each time I approached him he told me that he didn't have the time to listen to my personal problems," Annadurai said.

"I realised that the school may have a problem because my son requires extra care. I wanted to tell them that I was willing to provide a caretaker for him or pay for one if the school finds a person to accompany him to classes or to the toilet. But nobody in the school was willing to hear me out. When the principal finally agreed to meet me on June 2, a day before the entrance test, he said he won't be able to care for one child when there were 2,500 other children. He mocked my offer to pay for a caretaker in front of others and insulted me. If he had refused admission to my child in a more polite way it would have made the news a bit easy to bear," the father said.

School principal K Ponraman had a different story to tell. "I refused the boy a seat because none were vacant. He wasn't the only child we refused. His disability had nothing to do with it. We gave him the hall ticket but he failed to appear for the test," said Ponraman.

Annadurai said he discussed the issue with the CBSE regional director but was told that admission was the sole discretion of the school management. He also approached the Counsumer Council but did not get a proper response from them. So he lodged a complaint with the human rights commission and will be serving notices to the HRD secretary, the school principal and the CBSE regional director. Advocate K Murugan said they were in the process of filing a public interest litigation requesting the government to set up norms to regulate the admission of children with physical disabilities in CBSE schoools.

Meanwhile, Vishal and Vignesh continue studying in their old school, Bharathi Matriculation School in Pattabhiram. Both say they want to go to the same school: Vishal because he would otherwise feel left out and Vignesh because he will be around to help his brother if he needs it. Doctors say that with regular physiotherapy Vishal will be able to strengthen his muscles enough to be independent.