Wednesday, June 06, 2007

5 HIV-positive children in the southern Indian state of Kerala who were turned away from their school in 2006 have failed to get readmission

John Mary:

The school said it feared a backlash from parents of fellow students at the start of the new Indian academic year.

The children, in the 5-11 age group, are now confined to a privately-run orphanage where they will receive special coaching from teachers.

Their plight began in December 2006 when their HIV status was made public.

"Many parents came to us threatening to pull out their wards if the HIV-positive children were readmitted," an unnamed teacher at the Christian-affiliated Mar Dionysius Lower Primary School in the town of Kottayam was quoted as saying.

"We are helpless."

The local media revealed the identity of the five children - one boy and four girls aged between five and 11 - after covering news of their predicament in December.

Ever since, a protracted war has been waged between the school authorities and the state government on the question of whether or not the children should be allowed to attend regular classes.

The state government is now trying to convince school authorities to allow the children back into the classroom.

State Education Minister MA Baby and opposition leader Oommen Chandy both intervened on behalf of the children, but to no avail.

Eventually the school authorities let the children be taught privately and then sit the annual exams.

The Asha Kiran orphanage authorities helped ensure that they passed the exams, hoping that the school would "see reason" in the new academic year and re-admit them to higher classes.

"I will call a meeting of all concerned next week," said Mr Baby.

"There's no change in the government position that the children should continue to receive instruction, along with their classmates, in the same school.

"We cannot let this happen lest it should set wrong precedents and send out wrong signals."

This is not the first time that children with HIV have been denied entry to schools in Kerala.

Two such children, Benson and Bensy, staged a high-profile protest before the state secretariat in 2002 to get admission in a school.

They were eventually allowed to go back to their schools.

Indian school kicks out 5 HIV-positive kids again

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