The entrance to Holy Cross School near Gangtok. Picture by Prabin Khaling
Gangtok, April 4: The Sikkim State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights today asked the principal of a school to appear before it after a transfer certificate was issued to an 11-year-old boy on health grounds within a month of the start of the new academic session.
The guardians of the child said the authorities of Holy Cross School had not consulted any doctor to declare the Class IV student ill or unfit for the school.
The summons was issued after a complaint was filed by the grandmother of the child, Shila Devi, with the commission which is the nodal agency for the implementation of the Right to Education in Sikkim.
“Based on the complaint, a summons has been issued. The date of hearing is April 7,” Yonsa Lachenpa, the law officer of the social justice, empowerment and welfare department said.
Although the official reason for issuing the TC dated March 20 has been mentioned as “health”, Shila Devi said the school had labelled her grandchild “mentally unsound” and fit for special schools.
“The school authorities told me that my grandson was mentally unsound and abnormal. But who certified that? Did they consult a doctor? They told me to take him away and admit him to a school for special children. I had tried to convince the authorities several times that my grandson is normal and had been doing well. He had been a student of the school from Lower Kindergarten, where he was admitted in 2008. But the school insisted that I should take away my grandson,” she said.
The new academic session had started on February 14 and the boy’s father, a mason at Metro Point Tadong, had already spent around Rs 4,000 to procure the books and uniform.
“The academic session has already started and it is very difficult to get my grandson admitted to another school. I am trying my best but I am not sure what will happen to his education. He is presently attending private classes,” Shila Devi said. “It pains my heart to see the reason given by the Holy Cross authorities for the removal of my grandson. It is also very painful for the family whenever he moves around in school trousers or sweater and goes to play in the school ground with his former classmates. We don’t know what to do next.”
The principal of Holy Cross, Sister Jesse Mathew, said the child was “mentally unsound” and a decision to issue the TC was taken by a disciplinary committee.
“The child is disoriented and mentally unsound. He beats up other students and disturbs the class. We had received several complaints from parents that their children had been beaten up by the student. The disciplinary committee of the school held a meeting on this and summoned his grandmother who willingly took out the child from the school,” said the principal.
It was not clear if the school had consulted any doctor for the child before issuing the TC as the principal refused to take any more calls from The Telegraph.
Shila Devi also said it was not clear why the school took such a decision when the child had been a student there for three years.
Law officer Lachenpa said if the school fails to attend the hearing, legal action might be initiated. “A second summons will be sent if the principal does not attend the first one. The commission’s decision will be binding on the school. If it is ignored, we will write to the HRD department to which the commission reports and the school’s licence can be cancelled.”
Senior advocate and human rights activist Doma Bhutia said a writ petition could also be filed in court if the child’s right to education was violated.
“No student can be forced to leave school for such reason since the Right to Education Act ensures that students cannot be expelled under any circumstance,” she said.