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HIV+ students shunned in Latur school

Jul 10, 2009 03:22 PM IST India India
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New Delhi: Legalising homosexuality may help the fight against AIDS in India, but the education of some HIV positive children in Latur has been jeopardised.

Not only are they HIV infected but they have also been victims of discrimination. Their school - Zilla Parishad School Hosegaon - is allegedly asking them to withdraw themselves from the rolls because other students and their parents are not willing to come in contact with them.

Nearly 150 of the 320 students in the school have been boycotting classes for the past few days demanding that the HIV positive students be asked to leave school. The students are backed by their parents some of whom have been threatening to withdraw their children if the HIV positive students are not asked to leave.

Some students have even allegedly begun applying for transfer certificates.

The Headmaster of the school says, "Students were led to believe that they would get the disease if they sat next to the HIV positive students. Out of 320 students, 148 have been missing school for the last three days."

Latur Education Officer, Vilas Joshi, stated, "We want them but the other students and their parents don't want them. Parents say if their children ever get into a fight with the HIV positive students and the HIV positive students bite their children, then there is a risk of infection. We have consulted doctors on this and they say that in a case where an HIV positive person bites someone else, there could be a risk of infection."

However, activists and NGOs have slammed the school authorities for their callousness.

"This is really wrong because we have a fundamental right to equality and that someone should not be discriminated on these grounds. On the other hand we see schools asking students to leave because they are HIV positive. This is violating their right to education, their right to life and their right to equality. An inclusive society cannot function like this," says Secretary of the Sahyog Trust - an NGO for HIV positive patients - Rama Sarode.

"I think what the school authority is lacking is trying to bring awareness among parents who are saying they will boycott classes or get transfer certificates for their children. There is so much ignorance here. And that's the point. What kind of education are we imparting to the children?" she adds.

She says that as soon as school starts, there should be a parent-teacher meeting to bring about awareness.

"Such information about the children's health status should not be leaked by the school authorities to other parents or to anybody else for that matter so as not to cause confusion and fear," she says.

For now the local authorities - after failing to convince the parents of other students - have said that the children are going to remain in a hostel and will receive education separately there.

But this was not the first incident of its kind. In 2007 in Kottayam, Kerala, five HIV positive students were dismissed after other parents refused to send their children to the school. They had to battle their way back to primary school.

They were re-admitted at a lower primary school after the state government intervened on their behalf, but even the year after, it was an ordeal for the children to continue their education. The government had to intervene again to get the students a seat.