My letter to The Star (which they never published)
Posted by Oscar the Grouch on July 25, 2008
I refer to the article, “No certs – and no school” (The Star, July 18).
The report on the five children from the Arutperum Jothi Children’s Welfare Home not being able to enroll in school because they do not have birth certificates is appalling, to say the least.
K. Tharsini is already 10 years old, and should be in Standard 5 this year. She has already missed 5-long years of education because of the lack of a piece of paper. Her loss opportunity is irreversible and her future is beyond reproach due to our authorities’ unconcerned stance and blind adherence to procedural red-tape regularities.
In the country’s quest for developed status, plights, like that of K. Tharsini, should never arise. How are we going to progress as a nation when our children are still being deprived of basic education? Forget about the economic and infrastructural growth, all would be nothing if we continue to deny our children the right to knowledge. And there is no leeway in this issue, even if one child is being left out; we would be failing in our duties as caregiver.
The right to education is recognized as a human right in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This basic human right is practiced in almost all countries in the world by way of compulsory education, which children are required by law to receive education, of which it is the responsibility of the government to so provide. Many countries have compulsory education through at least the primary stages, often extending to the secondary level.
The right to education is also a right entrenched in our Federal Constitution. Article 12 of our Constitution provides that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the right of education on the grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth. Clearly, this means, to me, that education is to be made available to all our young without prejudice, bias or segregation. And that includes not having a birth certificate. It makes no sense for such an important right to be so sacredly protected by law only to be defeated by a flimsy reason of paper requirement.
It is even more shocking to read the school authorities explanation – that there had been no circular by the Education Ministry. This is incredulous. Are we saying that it is excusable to turn away a child from school because there was no circular on the matter? Is this the kind of governmental-relation that we can expect from schools and its’ ministry? A public announcement made several months before cannot be carried out because someone, somewhere, has not yet typed out an effecting circular. Meanwhile, many more children’s future is being thrown away nonchalantly.
In this digital day and age, I find it extremely disconcerting that none of the school officials can take the time and simple effort to write, call, or even drop an email to their superiors in the Federal level for clarification and green light. Instead we see the usual sit-and-wait culture so inherently ingrained in our civil service.
In fact, I secretly hope that the guardians of K. Tharsini take out a legal suit against the authorities for failing in their duty of care. Her future has been somewhat destroyed through no fault of her, and she should be adequately compensated for this. Perhaps, this will ensure such incidences do not ever occur again.