Published: 27th September 2019
Evicted and relocated, these 1,000 Chennai school kids might be left without a school
Corporation officials say they are not aware of the exact figure of school-going children among those evicted
Close to a thousand families, 924 to be precise, were evicted from Chintadripet on Thursday. They will be resettled in in Perumbakkam and Chemmencheri. What the authorities probably did not factor in, is the education of over a thousand school-going children who are being moved. Though there are schools in the resettlement sites, they lack the required capacity to accommodate these kids. In short, the resettlement violates these children's Right to Free and Compulsory Education.
Corporation officials say they are not aware of the exact figure of school-going children among those evicted. Guesstimation and claims of families put the number at a minimum of thousand. Schools at the colonies where these families are going to be resettled are already full, and cannot absorb more students. That means, these kids will either have to travel about 30 km to their old schools every day, or get enroled in expensive private schools near their place of stay.
"If we have the money to afford private school education, we wouldn't have to relocate to a resettlement colony. We have no idea of what needs to be done. It's most likely that they will have to drop out of school if there are no seats available," says Kala, mother of two teenage boys, who's being evicted from Pallavan Nagar, Chintadripet. As the first term exams have just concluded, parents fear securing admissions will be tough.
In the relocation sites, there is one government primary school, one middle school, one high school and one higher secondary school. There are over 20,000 families currently living in these two settlements. "Our total strength currently is 824 students. At the most, we can accommodate another 40-50 students," says Sundara Moorthy, headmaster of the Government High School in Perumbakkam. "Even that may over-crowd the school."
As per the RTE Act, the pupil to teacher ratio must be 30:1 for primary schools and 35:1 for upper primary schools. Relocating these people without expanding the infrastructure and posting more teachers would amount to violation of the RTE Act, claim activists. "Five more schools are being built at Perumbakkam and Chemmecheri but none are operational yet," says Vanessa Peter, policy researcher with the Information and Resource Centre for Deprived Urban Communities.
"The primary school in Perumbakkam functions out of one of the tenements itself," she says. Students who have enroled in private schools in Chintadripet will either have to forgo their fees or travel 60 km back and forth to attend classes. Children enroled in government schools will have to look for schools that have a vacancy, far from their homes, in the middle of the academic year.
An official from the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board told Express that houses have been allotted to all 924 families being relocated. "We have also arranged for food for three days and compensation from Rs 5,000-7,000 for each family," an official from the Chennai corporation said.