School expels slow learner

The NET school is located on 2nd Main, Sri Nijagunara Road, Gavipuram Extension. The Principal of this co-education school is Shashikala Banawasi. Citizen Matters contacted the school to get their side of the story. Shashikala says the parents voluntarily took a TC and that the school did not expel him. “Why will we promote the child and then expel him?”, she asks. She says that the teachers had spoken to Ravi’s parents about his problem but that the parents did not take it seriously. “We told the parents to take him for counseling. We never specifically told them to take the child away. For us any child is fine”. Shahsikala added that the boy was having problems coping up because of mixing up his spellings and numbers. “Counselling is required for this. If you correct such things at a young age, it is better”, she says. On asking her about the refund of donation, this was her reply: “I only look at academics. I do not look at the administration”.

Were the school authorities right in doing what they did? 

There is no law which says that any child who shows signs of slow learning should be expelled from formal educational systems. On the contrary, several conventional rules which govern examination patterns and are a part of traditional testing frameworks have now been relaxed for children who have learning disabilities. They are given up to 30 per cent extra time in exams, they are allowed to use calculators for Mathematics exams, their spellings are not closely scrutinised and so on. Earlier these regulations were applicable only to students who were appearing in the 10th standard state board exam, but thanks to the efforts of Prof. Gopalan, the founder of Malleswaram Dyslexia Association, they have now been extended to children in classes starting right from the 1st standard. 

Why did the school do it? 

Apparently this was not the first time that such an incident occurred in the school. Parents of a few other children of the same school say that the school regularly dismisses children from various classes, under some pretext or the other, and refuse to refund the donation. Could it be a money making racket?

Ravi has now got admission in another school in the same locality, where his elder brother studies. Here, Ravi went through a written test and an interview. Ravi’s parents have informed the school authorities about his condition.  Before these admissions, his parents met the concerned Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI) and complained to him about the expulsion on the basis of the boy’s special needs.

The DDPI admitted that there was not much he could do. This was because the school had been extremely tactful in covering their tracks with the required documented proofs at every stage. For instance, the receipt given for the donation said that the money was towards “infrastructure fund” and that it was given to the Trust and was thus a charitable donation. The school had a document signed by Ravi’s father which read that he had requested for the TC for his child. He was forced into signing it, but how could he prove it in the court of Law? In addition, the school had not given anywhere in writing that the boy was expelled due to dyslexia, or any other learning disability.

Questions unanswered

The first thing that one notices when one enters the school is big boards displaying the names of the toppers in all the classes and graphs of pass percentages, indicating that the school is producing high scoring students. But is that the sole purpose of our education system?

The school was methodical and meticulous in affecting Ravi’s dismissal. Maybe they are experienced in these kinds of immoral and unethical actions. When recourse was sought, they closed all possible doors, literally and figuratively. What should we do to question the motives of such schools, which choose to pass dismissive judgements on the ability of children, and yet are smart enough to do things within the legal framework?
Why should children with dyslexia or any other learning disability be discriminated against? Stereotyped notions of success and failure continue to plague the education system, and this means that there is no place for slow learners, who are often relegated to special schools. Is it right if only smart children are allowed exclusive access to the benefits of education? Is slow learning a crime?

The closed and non-transparent nature of the private schooling model, where there is little scope for parents to seek recourse when such an incident occurs, only makes the problem more complicated. In the absence of a dialogue-based alternative, the only option the parents had was to take a forced re-admission into the school, and that was something they were reluctant to do, keeping the long-term interest of the child in mind  Is it too much to expect teachers to have a kind word with parents of a child with learning disability and advise them about the steps they need to take? Surely, unceremonious dismissal is not the only option?

The DDPI narrated the story of Thomas Alva Edison. When Edison was in school, his mother was summoned and told to take her son home since he couldn’t learn. Her reply is believed to have been, “Since you say nobody can teach my child, I will become his teacher”. The rest as we know it is history.

It may have worked in the case of Edison. But don’t we need schooling systems that nurture all types of children in a way that encourages diversity? Don’t we require teachers who are committed to reaching out to the slowest child? Don’t we need a society where there’s space for all people? Most importantly, don’t we need schooling systems where the nation’s future leaders are groomed?

About Raghunandan Hegde 0 Articles
Software engineer working in Bangalore. Also part of an NGO, Swagath Education and Community Action (SECA) which works to teach spoken English to children of a slum.

4 Comments

  1. There are many incidents like this which go unnoticed and unreported -the trauma which children and parents go through is terrible. The education department should make provisions for parents to report schools like this!! The child above seems to be having Learning Difficulties or LD and is not a ‘slow learner’!!

  2. There are many incidents like this which go unnoticed and unreported -the trauma which children and parents go through is terrible. The education department should make provisions for parents to report schools like this!! The child above seems to be having Learning Difficulties or LD and is not a ‘slow learner’!!

  3. There are schools which don’t accept students into the next class unless they get 80% in their previous standard.

    There are schools which don’t accept anything less than 25k (or 1L in certain ‘prestigious’ schools) as donation.

    Till the time the parents of the ‘normal’ students realise this as a fact and stop considering that the school their son or daughter studies is legendary in producing ‘toppers’, we can do nothing about it. Most parents want their kids to top the school every time, and that is the bane on this country.

  4. The incident is extremely unfortunate. What is the guarantee this school and others will not expel Ravi again. The opaque model followed by private schools is disgusting as it preys on the fears of parents that their children will not get a good education.Its better to be a pickpocket or mobile thief compared to being a principal of such a school.

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