RTE quota for HIV+ children may face resistance

RTE quota for HIV+ children may face resistance

The latest draft rules prepared by the government will set aside five per cent, out of the mandatory 25 per cent reservation in private schools, for HIV positive children as well as orphaned and disabled children.

The latest version of the draft RTE rules, accessed by Deccan Herald, also reserves 10 per cent of the seats under this quota for Scheduled Castes, while another four per cent will be reserved for Scheduled Tribes. Backward Classes notified by the State government will also be eligible for reservation to the extent of six per cent. 

According to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), nearly 11,000 children in the State live with HIV/AIDS. Karnataka has the third largest number of HIV affected children after Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It is estimated that nearly 300 children died of the disease in the State during 2007-2010.

Twin challenge

The introduction of a specific quota for HIV affected children, while being laudatory, is bound to come across two significant roadblocks.

The first dilemma for the State government is over keeping the identity of HIV affected children a secret. The second, and the more difficult one, is tiding over opposition from parents and schools.

While Karnataka is not the only State to have this reservation policy – they have virtually copied the Andhra Pradesh model – it is not part of the model RTE rules of the Centre. States like Kerala have not included any category-wise reservation in the 25 per cent quota.

With transparency in the admission process bound to be made compulsory, admitting students under this quota could reveal the identity of potential HIV+ children. Vasudeva Sharma, member of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says that schools will have to maintain the confidentiality of students admitted under this quota.

"Of course, there are challenges which we hope to overcome in course of time,” said Sharma.

No trepidation

"Perhaps the day will come when children can say, without any trepidation, that they are HIV+,” he adds. There have been demands in the past for removal, boycott and ostracisation of students known to be HIV+. For instance, in Belgaum last year as many as 22 children, who tested HIV+, at a government primary school were prevented by other students and parents from studying in the same school.

This year, in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, the Centre said there were cases of 61 children infected by HIV who were removed from schools in various instances during 2008-2010.

The discrimination cases were reported from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Reservation quota under RTE

Category                                     percentage

HIV+/Orphans/Disabled                5
Scheduled Caste                          10
Scheduled Tribe                            4
Backward Classes                        6

Total                                            25

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