| Tultuli at the exam hall. Picture by Abhijit Chakrabarty
Balurghat, Feb. 23: A Madhyamik centre here has come under fire from the tribal community after invigilators allegedly insulted a candidate who had come to the exam hall with her 28-day-old baby.
Tultuli Pahan, who is appearing for her secondary exams from Vivekananda Girls’ School in Patiram, 16 km from here, had been told on February 20, the first day of the Madhyamik, that the baby would not be allowed in with her.
“The school not only refused to give my daughter-in-law a separate room, the headmistress did not even allow me to go into the hall with the baby so that he could be breast-fed,” alleged Manjubala Pahan, also the member of the local gram panchayat.
“She also told us that if my daughter-in-law wanted to take the test she should not have had the urge to have the baby,” she added.
The state secretary of Adivasi Socio-education and Cultural Association, Dukhiram Hansda, said over phone from Calcutta that had he known about the incident, he would have raised the issue with school education minister Partha De. “We will approach the governor and the state human rights commission,” he said.
The regional officer of the Madhyamik board, Debashis Dutta, was surprised when he learnt about Tultuli’s case. “The centre should have arranged for a separate room. I am going to look into the matter,” Dutta said.
However, Ujjawl Basu, the president of West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, said: “We don’t have a baby-sitting provision in our regular structure, so if the school denies the girl a separate room, we can do nothing. At the same time, if she is allowed in with the baby, we have no objection.”
While a section of the society is crying hoarse about the “inhumane” behaviour meted out to Tultuli, another group feels differently.
“A government, which is against child marriage, should not ideally allow a Madhyamik candidate in the hall with her baby. That would mean encouraging girls to get married before they reach 18. But there are provisions for young mothers too. They can avail of the open university,” said Pranab Chakrabarty, a retired college teacher.
The headmistress of the school, Piuka Sarkar, said: “We could not give her a separate room due to lack of infrastructure. As for the comments, we told her that had she taken the exam next year, she would have done better.”