Tuesday, April 26, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalit kids: 'Untouchables' and uneducated too



Dalit kids: 'Untouchables' and uneducated too
Ashis Senapati, TNN, Apr 25, 2011, 03.21pm IST

KENDRAPADA: Dalit children at a school in Jagatsinghpur district do
not know where they went wrong with their studies because teachers
refused to check their notebooks. "Ame achuta (We are considered
untouchables). The 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.

The school headmistress, Joshnarani Swain, rubbished the allegations
of discrimination. "We have been regularly providing mid-day meals to
all students and never discriminated against any Dalit child," she

When contacted, BDO (Balikuda) Niranjan Chanda said, "I have asked the
school inspector and welfare extension officer to conduct an inquiry
into the matter. The authorities will take proper action against the
culprits after getting the report," he said.

Expressing concern over the continuation of the obnoxious practice,
social activists in the area said it was unfortunate that caste
discrimination still prevailed in rural areas.

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