�In Bihar, teachers complain to the Dalit parents that their children wear dirty clothes and they smell in the classrooms�
�During a school visit in Rajasthan, while asking who gets beaten up regularly and why, children immediately pointed out to a student. He was a Dalit�
�Teachers don�t give proper attention to us. We have to sit on the ground. It�s very difficult...The quality of food (mid-day meal) is also very poor. We also get very little food in lunch as we are served the last, our stomach does not fill� � a Dalit girl student in Bihar
In UP, Dalit girls are seldom allowed to use the toilets in schools
These are some of the findings of a study on caste-based discrimination of Dalit children in schools. The study conducted by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights-Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan and supported by UNICEF shows that discrimination of various kinds plays a big role in the high dropout of Dalit children from schools. The report was given to UNICEF on Wednesday.
The study conducted in 41 primary schools, 36 middle schools and 17 secondary schools in Nalanda district of Bihar, Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh, Jodhpur in Rajasthan and Beed in Maharashtra examined various facets of discrimination, right from going to school, in the classroom and in the mid-day meal.
The report says physical access to schools is the biggest problem for Dalit children. In Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, most of the schools are situated in the dominant caste localities and Dalit children have to travel on an average half-an-hour to reach school. In the case of middle and high schools, Dalit children have to travel almost 3-4 kilometres in all the states. It is only in Maharashtra that Dalit children do not have to travel that far. But here too, the schools are located in dominant caste areas.
Asked why they came late to school, Dalit children gave various reasons including household chores, school distance, inability to keep track of school time and also the fact that they had to wait for other friends to go in a group due to fear from dominant caste children. In the school, it was found that participation of Dalit children was minimal. The morning assembly was invariably always conducted by upper caste children. In the class, Dalit children were made to sit at the back and in some schools of Bihar on the barren floor while mats were given to upper caste children. Even the notebooks and homework of the Dalit children were not checked by teachers.
As per the report, Dalit children in UP were also assigned menial caste-based tasks like cleaning the yard, filling up water buckets and cleaning the toilets. This led to other children treating them badly and considering them inferior. And what was shocking was that Dalit girl children were seldom allowed to use toilets. Dalit children are kept out of even functions like Independence Day.
In Maharashtra, the dalit children look up to B R Ambedkar as their role model but schools do not have his photograph though there are photos of other national leaders.
In secondary and higher secondary school, the survey found that teachers promote private coaching. But many Dalit children dropped out as they could not afford private classes. The report said that many Dalit children were beaten up because they were always late and �don�t behave properly� in the class.
25 Jun 2009, Times of India
Rahul Upadhyaya, 26, a Brahmin and a post-graduate in Hindi, had dreamt of becoming a teacher. That didn�t happen. Today, he works as a sweeper in Musawali village in Etah district, 200 km west of Lucknow.
His salary: Rs 7,000 per month, still a large sum in rural UP. �And my job is secure,� he said.
Sanjay Singh Rajput, 25, a Lodh, a dominant backward caste, is a BSc (Hons).
Till a few months ago, he was working for a computer vendor in Gurgaon as a testing engineer.
But now, he has swapped his IT tools for a broom. He sweeps streets and cleans drains in the Hanspur village in Kanshiram Nagar district, 220 km west of Lucknow, for a living.
Upadhyaya and Rajput are not alone. Thousands of Brahmins, Thakurs, Banias, Kayasths, Lodhs, Yadavs and Muslims are taking up jobs as sweepers and sanitation workers that were traditionally done by Dalits.
Call it the meltdown effect. The fear of unemployment is forcing even educated, upper caste and dominant backward caste youth to take up these secure, but menial, jobs.
This trend began when the Mayawati government began recruiting one lakh safai karamcharis (sanitation workers) for villages a few months ago.
Most are not in the least embarrassed at their new vocation. �No work is too small. After all, we are not begging or committing a theft,� said Rajput.
The Mayawati government�s move to recruit upper caste youth to join the sweepers� workforce can change the entire caste dynamics and social order in UP�s villages.
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