In an alarming development for alternative schoolers hinging their hopes on the interpreted ambiguity of the RTE Act, the Delhi High Court has today termed the withdraw of a 13 year old girl who was not doing well in school as a “criminal offence” – citing the RTE act which makes it mandatory for children between the ages 6 and 14 to be enrolled in school. The child, who is in the custody of the mother after her separation from her father is noted to be in poor health and has studied only till the second class. The child’s father filed the complaint against the mother for removing the child from school. A health examination has been ordered for the child before the next hearing on the 29th.
While it is indeed possible that the mother was guilty of abuse or neglect, there is no mention of any reasons provided by the mother for the withdrawal of the child from school – legitimate or otherwise.
This is a worrying development for homeschoolers and particularly homeschoolers with divorced or separated parents where the parent without custody could force the end of homeschooling by approaching the court.
What is even more alarming is the complete absence of the interest of the child. A 13 year old child who has studied only till the second class is a clear indication that for whatever reason, school is not proving useful to her. Yet the criminalization of exit from school takes education fascism to a whole new level. The complete absence of the mother’s perspective as well as any comments on potential causes of the lack of performance seem to render them as not significant in making such an assessment. Unfortunately, the largest, most unrepresented, powerless minority anywhere in the world is children. This development essentially turns the education system into a forced process – essentially turning “Right” To Education into imposed education.
There is no indication that the mother has mistreated the child in any manner – an assumption I am making, since I assume that judge would not leave a child in the custody of an abusive parent. So the “crime” seems to be the exit from school alone. This is ominous and puts homeschooling single parents at tremendous risk and gives potentially abusive ex-spouses a weapon of threat even after legal separation.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday warned a mother of strict action and termed as a ‘criminal offence’ her withdrawing her child from school.
Justice Manmohan asked the Delhi government to admit the 13-year-old girl child to a school in Green Park area by Sep 22 and also get her medically examined Wednesday.
The woman’s ex-husband had moved the court after she withdrew their child from school.
“It’s a criminal offence to withdraw a child from school. You committed an unpardonable act. I am not taking strict action. But if you withdraw the child again, I will take strict criminal action. I will be monitoring this matter,” the court told the mother.
The court took into note that though the girl was 13 years old, she had only studied till Class 2 and was physically very weak.
The court also sought a status report from the government on the admission and medical examination of the child by Sep 29, the next date of hearing.
The court also said that under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, it was mandatory for a child between six to 14 years to get education.
Justice Manmohan left it to the discretion of the school principal to admit the girl in an appropriate class and asked to monitor her progress and “to give her extra facilities so that she can adjust in the class”.
The Delhi government was also asked to monitor the case.
Three advocates were also appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court.
Dharmendra Kapoor, father of the girl child, told the court that his ex-wife withdrew their child from the Green Field School and did not send her to any other school.
Kapoor said he had admitted their child in DPS Sushant Lok, Gurgaon, but his ex-wife took their daughter with her, while leaving their home after divorce.