Dalit kids: even their books are “untouchable”

Kendrapada (Orissa): Dalit children at a school in Jagatsinghpur district do not know where they went wrong with their studies because teachers refuse to check their notebooks. “Ame achuta” (We are considered untouchables). Teachers refuse to touch our books and our homework is never corrected,” said Bijaya Mallick, a student of Class IV at the school at Keutapala in Balikuda block. “If we even touch our teachers by mistake, they scold us for polluting them,” he added.

The 40-odd Dalit students in the school were allegedly singled out and made to clean classrooms and toilets. “I clean toilets at school,” said Samir Mallick, a Class V student. He looked puzzled when asked why he agreed to do so. “The teachers tell me to do it,” the 11-year-old boy said. “We are not even allowed to take water from the drinking pot at school,” he added.

Several students and their parents complained that they were victims of caste discrimination by the school staff since long. The final straw, however, was when teachers refused to serve mid-day meals to the children. This prompted incensed parents not to send their wards to school for the past one week.

“The cook and some teachers, who were entrusted to provide mid-day meals, abused some Dalit children and refused to give them food. Our children were also compelled to sit at a distance from upper caste children during meal time,” said Babaji Mallick, the father of a Dalit student. “We have therefore decided not to send our children to that school,” he added.(Times of India, 25 April, 2011)

MG News Desk

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2011 on page no. 4

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