Discrimination against Dalits is in the educational system is a widespread problem across Indian states. The students are often alienated socially in their classrooms. They are victims of physical abuse by classmates and educators, from primary education to university.
A glaring example of this discrimination was captured in Gujarat's Surendranagar district by Bipin Solanki, our community correspondent of the area. Panva Primary School, a government-run school in Panva village of the Surendranagar district would openly discriminate between the Thakor, a 'high caste' and Harijan aka Dalit children. During the mid-day meal, is a school meal programme of the government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide, the Harijan children would be seated away from Thakor children. "We were not even allowed serve food to our fellow classmates because we belonged to the Harijan caste. If we requested the teachers, they would scold us," says Pradip Kumar, a 10-year old boy tells Bipin. Bipin, who is also a Human Rights activist was appalled by the discrimination shown to young children, and the impact that it would have on their psyche. To put a stop this practice, Bipin made an issue video which showed several young students complaining about the blatant discrimination due to their caste. Armed with the video as proof, Bipin mobilised the School Management Committee (SMC), mid-day meal authorities, Dalit organisations of the region to demand that the illegal practice is immediately stopped. The video was also circulated on what's app and Facebook, which caught the attention of the entire region. "Because of the video, people from all over Gujarat called up the school's principal to stop the discrimination," says Ramesh Makvan, a social activist from Panva.
Even though discrimination due to untouchability is a punishable offence under the Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, the measures taken for its implementation has been very limited, due to the absence of a monitoring system in place. For example, Jivan Makawana, a member of the SMC was unaware of the discrimination at the school until Bipin showed him the video as a proof. Jivan said, "Until I saw the video, I didn't know discrimination was practised to such extent."
For the struggling classes, education in India is seen as a ray of hope - where the marginalised communities inch towards a future of justice, prosperity and equity, with great difficulty. However, the India Exclusion Report (2014) by Centre for Equity Studies observes how exclusionary and discriminatory practices still exists in Indian schools. As a result of many of these factors, 75% of the more than six million children currently out of school in India are either Dalits (32.4%), Muslims (25.7%) or Adivasis (16.6%).
As India is set to become the youngest country by 2020, the shape of our educational system is the key to how fast we can emerge as a modern, developed nation.
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Bipin Solanki.
Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ they give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.