This summer, Ravi Kumar’s (name changed to protect identity) parents were left in a dilemma. Ravi completed his 2nd standard exams and was promoted to the 3rd standard. But he couldn’t go back to school. That’s because after promoting Ravi, the school expelled him. Here’s Ravi’s story and the trauma his parents went through.

Eight-year-old Ravi was a student of the school run by the Nijaguna Education Trust (NET) in Gavipuram. Ravi’s father, 45-year-old Sridhar Kumar (name changed to protect identity) is a BMTC bus driver and his mother, 36-year-old Roopa  (name changed to protect identity) is a home maker.

The NET school, Gavipuram

A photo of the school (pic: Raghunandan Hegde)

Two years ago, his parents put him in NET Public School after paying a donation of Rs. 10,000. While the first year was largely uneventful, towards the later stages of his first academic year and in his second year, the boy started showing signs of slow learning, which manifested itself in Ravi's writing: 'b' would be written as 'd', 'a' and 'o' would be mixed up. His performance in Mathematics had also dipped slightly, but there was no real cause for panic as Ravi was still passing his exams quite comfortably. All along though, Ravi displayed great interest in art and drawing and seemed to be most comfortable when he was given white sheets of paper and colours. His mother had watched Taare Zameen Par, and began making tentative comparisons with the dyslexic protagonist in the film.

Roopa was aware of her son's condition and was contemplating medical attention. Around the same time, Ravi’s father went to his school to collect his marks card, when the school told him that his son could no longer study in their institute. The school dismissed him on the grounds that he wasn't fit to be a mainstream student and that he had to put in a 'special school'. As if the decision was not damaging enough, the manner in which the exercise was carried out was even more appalling.

Taking advantage of Ravi's father's low educational status, the school forced him to sign on a document which said that he (the father) was voluntarily requesting for a transfer certificate (TC). His protests, on grounds that it was unfair, were not even heard. He even went to the extent of saying that the school could consider making Ravi repeat the year if needed, and that he would consult a doctor about the problem at the earliest, but the school was in no mood to listen. They had decided that the boy had to go, and they were sticking to their stand. And when asked to return the money they had taken as donation at the time of his admission, the school refused, saying that it was collected as building fund and could not be refunded.

A few days after this incident, Roopa (who was out of town when Ravi was expelled) and this writer went to the school to enquire. Not only was everyone in the school rude, but the Principal even refused to meet anybody except the boy's parents. The mother's request that the school should give in writing that Ravi was asked to leave because the school suspected he was a slow learner, was turned down. Requests to return (at least a part of) the donation money were also met with a firm no.