Kerala School Struggles to Break Caste Barriers
Parents refuse to send their children to school with dalit students.
Kerala has some of the most positive literacy indicators but like the rest of India, it has not been able to break caste barriers and a school in the northern district of Kozhikode is a case in point.
The Government Welfare Lower Primary School in Perambra village has become a “Dalits only” school because other communities in the village have stopped sending their children there.
For the last 10 years and despite several attempts, no child from the upper castes has studied there.
Located 40km away from Kozhikode city, Perambra village has a fairly varied social composition.
There are only 12 students in the school in four classes, and all of them belong to SC category. No upper caste child has studied here in the last 10 years, even though we tried our best to increase the strength.
-Reghunathan Thettiyil, Headmaster, Government Welfare Lower Primary School
Forty Scheduled Caste (SC) Sambava or Paraya families live in a colony near the school, but there are upper caste Nair and Nambiar families and even Thiyya (OBC) families residing near the school.
Most of the residents of the colony are daily wage workers who earn around Rs 500 a day.
Thettiyil says that the school has very good infrastructure. Despite that, people don’t wish to send their children to school.
The upper caste parents told us that they don’t want their kids to sit with Parayas. They have directly told us this.
-Teacher (anonymous), Government Welfare Lower Primary School
However, when Thettiyil and the other teacher say “upper caste”, they are actually referring to OBC communities in the village who are considered to be above the SC.
Since 2005, the few OBC children on the school list have also shifted to other schools. The Paraya colony is kept out of social circles as well.
Whatever change happens, casteism remains. They [upper caste members] will insult you calling your caste name, they will discriminate you as your skin colour is dark and your language has a different accent.
-CM Kunju Kutti, Social Worker
Recently Malayalam news channel, Reporter TV, reported an 8-year-old child from the colony saying that her classmates and seniors insulted her by calling her by her caste name, “Paraya”.
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