Sunday, March 3, 2024

New study unmasks caste pride, casteist practices among schools, teachers in Tamil Nadu

A recent study by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) has revealed the prevalence of caste-based violence and discrimination among a large number of schools in the state. 

The study conducted across 441 schools released on Saturday, 23 December, also listed schools where teachers have favoured caste-based discrimination.

Though the names of the schools and teachers were kept hidden by TNUEF,  those details have been shared with the state government along with recommendations, seeking immediate action.

About 644 students including 333 boys and 311 girls from classes 6 to 12 took part in the survey.

While the study covered 321 government schools and 58 government aided schools across 36 districts, 62 private schools were also included in the sample.

“A majority of the students who were willing to participate in the study belonged to Scheduled Castes (SC), while there were around 10% of students who were from Backward Castes (BC) and Most Backward Classes (MBC),” The News Minute quoted Samuvel Raj, general secretary of TNUEF as saying.

As shown by the study findings, caste violence among students has been reported in 25 schools from districts including Ramanathapuram, Cuddalore, and Tiruvannamalai.

Students have reportedly testified to active casteist sentiments in about 23 schools. In as many as 10 schools, students tended to form groups on the basis of their castes. 

Particular colours of kerchiefs, bindis, threads, and stickers were used by school-going students to proclaim caste Identity in 20 districts including Chennai, Cuddalore and Tirunelveli, along with 34 other types of caste symbols.

In 15 schools, Dalit students are forced to wash the school’s toilets. In another six schools, students are made to stand in separate lines based on their respective castes to collect their mid-day meals. Additionally, separate rooms were set up to ensure segregation while eating lunch in four schools.

It is also important to note that the study has exposed the presence of caste-based bias among teachers in at least three schools.

In five schools, teachers actively carry out caste-based discrimination in classrooms. 

Teachers were found to have refused to touch Dalit students in one school while three schools have teachers who excessively punished Dalit students.

 “In Madurai, a school cancelled the felicitation function for Class 12 toppers because the first and second rank holders were both Dalits,” Samuvel added.

TNUEF report contains 23 recommendations to the government to tackle the issue. 

It is suggested that separate grievance redressal systems like the Internal Complaints Committee must be found to address casteism in schools across the state, with a civil servant heading the administration.

They have also demanded the government to take steps and establish committees with parents, students and teachers, to raise complaints, and asked to place complaint boxes inside schools. 

The need to incorporate an “egalitarian approach” in teachers’ training programmes was also emphasised, accompanied by proper education on the consequences of discriminatory practices.

The organisation warned the state government that the names of schools and teachers involved in such practices would be publicised, if they fail to take effective measures to reduce caste-based discrimination in schools within the next month.

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