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A single mom was recently refused admission for her child at a private school, because “we can’t handle single parents”, said in a very rude manner. This is ridiculous, to say the least.
A video posted by Sujata Mohite, a single mom, recently went viral on Facebook. The video showed a lady from St. Lawrence High School Vashi in Navi Mumbai denying admission to Sujata’s child because she is a single parent.
Update on this incident after article.
The school official in the video can be seen saying crudely enough that she can’t “handle” single parents. Her tone and tenor towards Sujata and another person accompanying her is rude, derogatory, and offensive.
This whole fiasco happened after the school first claimed that “seats are full” and yet allowed Sujata’s child to come and sit for an admission test. The lady representing the school rudely refuses Sujata’s child admission on the grounds of her being a single parent.
Point to be noted is that by what correlation is a parents’ marital status the criteria for school admission?
Contemporary global world is increasingly becoming more and more accepting of diverse alternate families with single parents, mixed families and even same sex parents but in India any similar change at ground level seems a distant reality.
The traditional Indian society that harps continuously on morality lessons for single parents has always been hostile towards families that are different from their conventional idea of an “ideal family”.
These views also percolate down to our institutions and education system. While we boast of Right to Education (RTE) granted to every Indian child, the schools that are meant to implement this also sometimes shamelessly display callousness and offensive attitude towards single parents seeking admissions for their wards, and seem to be behaving as if they are doing the parent and child a favour by granting admission.
In 2018 the Maharashtra government had announced special provisions during the application process of school admissions for divorced women, women going through divorce proceedings, and widows, by producing respective certificates.
According to the Indian Express a senior official said, “Earlier, there was no clarity on the matter and women were forced to produce certificates of their separated or estranged husband. Now, we have issued clear guidelines to make it easier for single women to admit their children under the RTE quota.”
The Right to Education Act 2009 clearly makes it obligatory for the Government and institutions to ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children between the age of 6-14.
The law allows admission to orphans too in schools and several state governments have now started making separate provisions for single parents, but at the ground level, the tug of war seems to be still on between arrogant, rude and misinformed school authorities, and hapless single parents.
However there are also a number of schools that are trying to increase awareness and sensitivity towards single parent families realising that their numbers are only going to grow in the coming times owing to increasing rates of divorces and separation in the society.
The incident is a proof of glaring lack of awareness and sensitivity on the part of the schools, which need to become more inclusive and supportive. Unless this is done, we will continue to have officials being derogatory, biased, and disrespectful towards parents like Sujata seeking answers, and questioning their undue discrimination and whims that are contrary to the law.
Education activists opine that the government must actively look into the loopholes so that children who must benefit from RTE are not left out of the education system.
Ever since the video went viral and the incident was widely reported and condemned by women rights bodies and all socially conscious platforms, Union Minister Smriti Irani has taken note and forwarded the issue to Ministry of Human resource Development.
The school official has been identified as Saira Kennedy, and Ryan Group of Schools that runs this school has issued a statement that they do not discriminate against children in any of their schools based on the parents’ marital/relationship status, also assuring that suitable action shall be taken against the employee who harassed the single mother.
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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