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School faces caste tag controversy

Official to investigate Catholic institution after children made to show names and status

  • ucanews.com, Kochi
  • India
  • June 3, 2011
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A Catholic school in Kerala is in trouble for mentioning the caste of  its new students in identity cards.

“It’s serious offence,” said Mohammed Hanish, who directs the Public Instruction section in the Education Department.

The official said he ordered an investigation yesterday after receiving a complaint that St. Agnes Lower Primary School made 82 new students wear tags that showed their names along with their castes. The new academic year in Kerala started on June 1.

The Congregation of Mother Carmel, a Kerala-based congregation, runs the school at Muttuchira.

Indian society is divided into four major castes and hundreds of sub castes. The priestly Brahmin caste is on the top and menial workers such as scavengers are at the bottom. The law bans actions that belittle people because of caste.

The controversy arose after it identified not only the student’s name and date of birth but also their religion and caste.

The school authorities took a group photo of the students with the controversial tags.

Some parents described the school’s action as insensitive.

Later, student organizations affiliated to communists and dalit organizations protested in front of the school.

Sister Valsamma, the principal, said such identification was routine practice in the school.

“We had given them the tags last year also. The idea was to make parents aware of discrepancies if any, in school records,” she explained.

She also pointed out that dalit students are entitled to educational grants from the government. “If their caste is recorded wrongly, they may not get the grants,” she added.

Sister Valsamma said the school does not insist that the children wear these tags throughout the year, but only on the opening day.

Education Department officials said they would ask school authorities to explain circumstances that led them to issue such identification tags. If their answers are not satisfactory, the department would take disciplinary action against school management, they said.

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