PUCL, September 2003

“Education a fundamental right” – But to what extent?

In the wake of expulsion of students from different schools in Mumbai on the basis of failure, bad behavior, over age etc. a four member team from the Committee of Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Mumbai, a civil liberties organistion, decided to conduct fact finding mission.

Terms of reference

  • To find out whether the school is justified in its act of expelling these students
  • To ascertain any flaw in the Secondary School Code.

Case studies

Case 1
The team visited St. Andrew’s High School, a government aided school, Bandra (W) which hit headlines in newspapers by expelling 74 students from its school this academic year. The first round of investigations was conducted on 26th July 2003. The team met with some of the expelled students from the school.

1. Name: Master Sohail Barafwala
Nature of complaint: Expelled from school on the basis of bad behavior.

Details: Sohail passed his VII standard and was condoned and promoted to standard VIII, however the school finds that he is a badly behaved boy, therefore he was asked to leave the school.

He admits of being mischievous however he states that his teacher Ms. Shenaz topiwala called him names, like terrorist, criminal etc.

2. Name: Master Shoaib Sheikh
Nature of complaint: Expelled from school on the basis of changing of marks on the open day.

Details: Shoaib was a student of standard IX and he is among the 11 boys who changed the totals in their final exam marks on the open day. He was caught along with other boys and they were all asked to leave school.

3. Name: Master Faiz Qureshi
Nature of complaint: Expelled from school on the basis of over age.

Details: Faiz Qureshi was promoted to standard VI however his age did not permit him for that standard and hence he was asked to leave the school and do his studies privately.

The school’s stand
The team met with Fr. Rodney Esperance, the school administrator at his office on 26th July 2003. Fr. Rodney claimed that the entire issue was blown out of proportion by the Mid-day and that there was no discrimination made towards any community in particular.

He said that St. Andrew’s school is 80% filled with Muslim students and traditionally it was the Koja Muslims who use to secure admission in the school. However this group did not want their children to mix around with the children of other Muslim sects. He further stated that most of the children who were allegedly expelled, had voluntarily left the school to complete their studies privately and various other reasons and only two students had been expelled from the school on the basis of bad behavior and over age. However his press statement says that two students were expelled for bad behavior.

On further investigation of the remaining students, Fr. Rodney Esperance said that in the IX standard 22 students had failed and out of these 22 students, there was a group of 11 students who use to trouble other students in the class room. On the open day when they were shown their papers they had changed the marks in the totals only ignorant of the fact that it will expose them. On inspection of the papers by the team, it was noticed that the totals were changed from 29/100 to 290/100 etc. but on further inspection of the documents presented by the administrator, the team came across letters addressed to the Sr. Inspector of Bandra Police Station to prosecute these students who had changed their marks, in the juvenile court, as it amounted to cheating.

However on questioning this letter Fr. Rodney told the team that he had not gone ahead with the complaint. But he stated that these students were asked to meet the Head Mistress but only 2 of them did so and the rest of them preferred to quietly apply for the leaving certificate and join other schools. He further stated that after the report was published in the Mid-day, a team of two officials came on the 23rd July 2003, from the education department and conducted an inquiry and that he submitted a report to the state government over the issue.

The team then requested Fr. Rodney Esperance to call upon Ms. Judy who deposed to the team about the case of Sohail Barafwala. Ms. Judy said that Sohail was a very intelligent boy but his only default was that he was badly behaved. He was caught robbing, pinching, disturbing the class etc. he was warned several times and his father use to be called frequently to the school. However this year even after passing the VII standard, he was asked to leave the school on the basis of bad behavior.

Upon further request to speak to Ms. Shenaz Topiwala, Fr. Rodney Esperance refused to call upon her and told us that our time is up with him and he has to leave, but he agreed to continue this enquiry on another date. The second day of the enquiry for final investigation was set for 2nd August 2003.

On 31st July 2003, a member of the team spoke to Fr. Gregory Lobo, secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Education (ABE) to enquire what the stand of the ABE is over the issue of St.Andrew’s High School. He told this member that as long as Fr. Rodney Esperance can handle the issue the ABE will not intervene but if he cannot then only the ABE will intervene into the matter

On 2nd August 2003 it was only a one member team had visited the school to conclude the investigation. Fr. Rodney Esperance informed this member that at the Archdiocesan Board of Education meeting held on 31st July 2003 Cardinal Ivan Dias congratulated the management and teachers of St. Andrew’s High School for standing up to their convictions during its time of crisis.

Fr. Rodney Esperance then further told this member that he had spoken to the Additional Commissioner of Human Rights Mr. Awade regarding the intervention of CPDR into the issue and he was informed by the Commissioner that he has the power to arrest any group or persons posing as Human Rights Activist’s and who are not a registered body. Fr. Rodney further stated that he had the entire Bandra police force with him and the support of the ABE and the Cardinal so nothing can effect him and in fact he is going to

prosecute this team in the court of law and get the entire team arrested. With this he said that this enquiry is closed and the attitude of the team was bad and he is going ahead with legal action against the team.

Case 2
Shriram Welfare Society High School in Andheri a BMC aided private school expelled four students who had failed their final exam. However these students were first time failures. Two of them were from standard 1st and the other two were from standard 2nd and 3rd. The parents of these students claimed that because they are poor families and because their children could not speak English therefore they were kicked out of the school.

The Students who were kicked out were:
Zubair Mirza Baig (6) standard 1

Shahrukh Shaikh (6), standard 1

Heena Hussain (8), standard 2

Shahbaaz Pathan (9) standard 3

The school’s stand
In a press statement the President of the trust Mr. K Subramaniam denied the charges of discrimination but however he said that “If the child fails, it’s not the end of the road. They should put him in a language school. Who knows, he might become a scholar like Abdul Kalam.”

There are many laws, rules and regulations laid down by our education departments and governments. But while laying down these rules, the officials have not taken into consideration the effects of these laws, rules and regulations and corruption can seep in to avoid legal action, if these rules and regulations are not followed either by the school or students. A study was done on the Secondary School Code to ascertain whether school does honestly follow the rules and regulations laid down by the code.

The Secondary School Code states that expulsion can be on the grounds of continuous failure, bad behavior (inside and outside the school). But the code doesn’t specify other grounds like over-age, one-time failure, language. Due to this every school formulates its own rules and regulations regarding the same, for example:- how many years can a student be detained in the same class or removed from the school or rusticated? The definition of bad behavior is not specified example: robbing (money or stationary), pinching, pushing, slapping, fighting. Also “bad behavior” can be a reason for expulsion can have different connotations in different situations.

But the code does clearly specify that in the case of any expulsion the head of the institute should be reported to the education authority and in no case later then 7 days of expulsion with the name of the pupil expelled, together with full details of the reasons for the action taken. This rule is seconded by the High Court of Mumbai (Kobad Bharda v/s Farokh 1990 Mah LJ 883) that expulsion of students from the school and no reasons for expulsion recorded no expulsion communicated to the Director of Education is illegal.

Both schools have not followed the rules and regulations laid down by the Secondary School Code and thus violated the fundamental right to education of these poor students, and putting their future to stake.

High reform measures such as special counselors for both parents and children need to be installed mandatory in schools to avoid such cases in the future.

The socio economic background of the children needs to be studied and special attention and care needs to be given to the child in order to help him/her to excel in studies.

In the case of the children are backward in studies extra coaching classes should be provided by the school at a very nominal or preferably free of cost to these children. Example: - Anjuman –E-Islam Allana English High School, did not expel its students when they failed their third standard twice consecutively but they were given extra coaching classes daily. And when they appeared for the exam they topped the class.

The S.S Code should be more specific with its guidelines especially in the case of expulsion of students.

The department should penalize those schools who have not submitted in time.

An urgent need of setting up of a watch dog committee needs to be set up to monitor such violations committed by schools.

Home | Index