An issue of public notice rights in minority schools
Why do minority schools not publicize their “status” ? Not a single person I interacted with knew that Vibgyor was a Parsi Minority school nor had information about exactly what “minority” any of the major schools were. Be it DPS Schools in Bangalore or Ryan International or any of the hundreds of schools. Why is secrecy the norm? I walk through this extremely important issue in this article.
ADMISSION UNDER RTE
March 15, 2014
Our school has a stay on RTE admissions by virtue of considering our school a minority Institution. We have filled all the positions in Std 1 by minority students and as such no further admissions will be accepted from RTE students. Further BEOs have notified RTE admissions could be done up to 21st April 2014 in all the schools. Therefore the parents could approach other schools for admissions as there is enough time.
Note on website of National Public School
I simply could not figure out what “type of minority” this top school in Bangalore was. Why is it important?Read on.
Exception or rule ?
A remarkable fact of India’s education system is the existence of communal exemptions and separate processes based on religious and linguistic identity of individuals who operate schools. Only schools established and operated by Hindus are subject to the recently enacted Right to Education Act with a safety valve that some Hindus can claim what is called a “linguistic minority” exemption. Even outside the Right to Education Act there are a number of benefits bestowed only upon minorities and equally a number of burdens such as the RTE that are only imposed on Hindus. The net impact of this is that in any given state, the local majority population is severely discouraged to enter the education sector by arranging the incentives against them. How we ended up in this grotesque situation is a huge story for another day. In this article, lets assume that IF these exemptions and processes are justified what are the public obligations of schools that claim this exemption.
First take a step back the examine the special status as an exception.
- If you argue that minority privileges are exceptions to the rule of equality, then it follows that there are duties that come with the exemption. As per Art 29 of the constitution, these duties include preservation of their unique culture and religion specific to the group claiming the exemption. Stated simply – everyone can run schools but minorities get something special if and only if they do XYZ for their communities. If not, it doesnt mean they are oppressed and get to scream atrocity. It just means they get to operate schools like everyone else. This is how it works all over the world.
- If you argue that minority privilege is the rule, and the concessions to Hindus to operate schools are the exemption, then it follows that there are no obligations whatsoever . Simply – everyone can run schools but minorities are special because the ones running them belong to minority religions. In this model, minorities are simply privileged by law to be the preferred providers of education in this country. This is of course outlandish but still needs to be explicitly mentioned and discarded with due care. You will not believe how many think this to be the constitutional position.
Minority rights seen in a different light – public notice
Here is a simple question that will stump the best of the Idea of India intellectuals and lawyers. Go ahead and ask them this.
What rights can an individual from the minority community assert against minority educational institutions ?
Wait for their answer…..
There are all kinds of rights but lets look at what I consider to be the most basic of them all. The right to “public notice”. The right to simply know which institutions are minority ones so that you may approach those institutions and assert your rights to the extent that you have them. The notice has to be public rather than being private or secretly circulated. What we have today is a secret notice. This kills the rights of minority individuals right off the blocks. As a minority individual you would not even know that a particular school/college is claiming Art30 exemption on your behalf UNLESS you are a member of a club that has access to this secret info.
The real reason why schools deny public notice rights to their own minorities is that in reality these people just want to run NORMAL SCHOOLS not PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS. This is a battle for the soul of India, the youth and who gets to have them as a captive audience for the fist 21 years of their lives. To that end, on the outside they project a secular modern face but through the backdoor assert their sectarian Article 29/30 rights by stating they are working to preserve their ‘culture’.
Very few people, not even their alumni knew that a leading school in Bangalore National Public School School was a Malayalee Linguistic Minority school. Admission to this school is so limited that only kids of the super elite and connected make it through. So even if it is not about monetary profits, schools like this have acquired enormous influence in a scarcity. They are now seeking exemption from the Right to Education Act on behalf of Malayalam language rights in Bangalore.
What follows is not pretty. This means that over the past few decades, generations of Malayalam speaking kids in Bangalore were not able to assert their rights – because they had NO NOTICE that this was a school for them. Data shows that only 8% of the students are Malayalees.
Similarly, Vibgyor school which was in the news recently for the abuse of a child, is apparently a Parsi Minority. I remember on Twitter, folks were playing “Guess the minority game”. Just yesterday they won a massive victory in our court system.
Appearing for the aggrieved school, counsel T.R. Andhyarijuna told the court it was an old minority institution run by the Parsis and was covered by the constitution bench judgment that exempts aided and unaided minority institutions from the ambit of the RTE Act.
He said that merely because the petitioner school did not have a certificate of being a minority institution from the National Commission of Minorities or the state government or a competent authority, it would not erase its minority character.
There are other schools like Ryan who reserve a mere 5% of the seats for Christians, some do 10%. These are all formulae made up on the spot without any principle. The underlying desire is always to run a normal school for all including and especially the Hindus youth. All the while exempting themselves from burdens and including themselves in benefits.
Why be shy ?
Recently the world renowned newspaper The New York Times carried a lie (actually a half truth) in its print as well as online edition. The following was written by an Indian reporter Mr Manu Joseph on the RTE.
Her child was a beneficiary of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which took effect in 2010. The act requires that all private schools in India, except those run by and for minority communities, reserve 25 percent of their seats
Pay attention to the phrase in bold “by and for”. It is a half truth or a lie because even those run by minorities and for everyone or even by minorities and for others qualify for the exemption. You may think this is a minor issue but it is central and changes everything. If a minority runs a school FOR its own flock, it means that the flock in return have rights against the managements of these schools. This is not an innocent mistake. It is intended to mislead the western audience that our Education laws fit in with their conceptions of uniformity.
A practical solution. Will minorities accept ?
I propose to recast Art 29/30 into a new language of rights. Not of rights of managements but of the kids belonging to the minority community.
Here are practical notice requirements.
- A large yellow coloured board outside each minority school, clearly visible and legible from a distance of 50m stating that this is a minority school.
- A Public Notice of Rights – for each minority school under the above board stating what type of minority school this is. Whether Malayalee, Konkani, Parsi, Christian, Tamil.
- Enumerate Rights available: Under what circumstances can a Art 29/30 school select a Hindu student over a Minority student of the same affiliation as the school.
- All students of a minority have to be accommodated before opening up to Hindu and minorities of other groups students.
- If any minority wants to to be free of notice duties, they always have the option of getting in line and running the school like everyone else.
- If some minority like the Konkani minority in Bangalore High Court tries to say “But we only have 1 kid from our community” then simple pro-rata rules can be applied. This means that for very tiny minorities either you refuse to grant the status or you simply pro-rate the rules applicable to all. For example : If Vibgyor entry class of 100 has only 2 Parsis – then the 98% would be treated to the 25% quota (Sec 12 of RTE) as well as the compulsory lottery (Sec 13 of RTE).
It is time to really bring these issues onto the front burner.
It is abundantly clear that there is a Lutyens consensus between the old UPA regime, the Supreme Court brotherhood, the Idea of India intellectual movement and the current BJP government. The court has also clearly laid out a sectarian and communal vision rooted in scarcity as the education roadmap. So much so that even covenants and lease deeds entered into by Minority schools are exempted by elevating Art 30 over basic contractual obligations. The only challenge to this travesty is isolated voices like ours on social media.
To conclude ; everyone needs to be alert because.