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I am livid, hurt, upset and totally speechless. Yesterday night a news item was aired on a TV channel stating that an upmarket school in Bangalore labelled poor children as criminals. This aberration was stated in a circular sent to parents in the wake of the new Right to Education Act, which stipulates that all private schools have to admit 25% children from underprivileged backgrounds. The said circular referred to this and proclaimed that admitting poor students into the school will be detrimental to the psyche of those that are already studying there. It even added that such children beat up your child, smoke on the campus, misbehave with a girl or a teacher!

This is scary. First of all let us remember that the Act stipulates that children will be admitted in class I and thus I am at a total loss to even begin to comprehend what the school is trying to say. Do 6 year old children smoke or misbehave with girls? Wonder where. But that is not the real issue. The reality is it that this attitude though politically incorrect, is one that pervades the very fabric of our society. I have often mentioned it whenever I have talked of the elusive common school. My son cannot study in the same class as my driver’s child. Period! This is where the truth lies. We are feudal in our beliefs and will remain so. The 25% reservation was a sort of a back door entry into inclusive education and a semblance of a common school. The circular of the Bethany school just brings out in the open what many think but dare not express. In a way it is good this has come out in the open before the real implementation of the reservation policy. It shows how such back door and half hearted efforts are doomed to fail. Inclusion has to come the other way if it is to succeed. The so called school for the poor has to become a centre of excellence that will attract the so called rich and become a viable alternative to expensive private schools. You cannot make poor children second class citizens in their own country. They are full fledged citizens protected by the same Constitution and having the same right to Education than any child born on the other side of the invisible divide.

Now let us address the aberration of equating poor children to criminals. I urge you to look at the picture above. These 8 kids are form the most deprived homes you can imagine. They have been studying in an upmarket school for 2 years now. They are the pride of their school as they have excellent results, each topping its respective class, and are extremely well behaved. they do not misbehave with teachers, do not smoke or beta other kids. Need I say more.