Panaji: Try as he may, Savio D’Souza (12) may not be able to go to school this year. Reason: He is HIV positive.
Savio and twelve other students afflicted with HIV, are the subject of a brewing controversy in Rivona village, in Goa’s south eastern sub district of Sanguem, where parents of other students studying in the school, have threatened to withdraw boycott the institution.
Speaking to Firstpost Dominic Cardoz, head of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of Fatima High School said that the association met on Monday and in a resolution have decided to withdraw their wards from the educational institution, if the management goes ahead and admits the 13 students, including Savio.
“We do not want them to be granted admission along with our children. We do not want to take the chance. If our demands are not met, then we will be boycotting the school and withdrawing our children from here,” Cardoz said.
A school administration official said that the parents also demanded to see the medical reports of the students which reveals their HIV status, but the request was denied by the school management, which further infuriated the parents of nearly three dozen students, who gathered agitated outside the school premises.
“We will also stage a dharna, if the school insists on admitting the students,” Cardoz said.
The shocking controversy comes a few months after the Supreme Court issued notices to central and state governments following a petition filed by NAZ Foundation Trust, which sought to ensure that HIV positive school children should not be discriminated against at time of admission to schools. The public interest litigation had requested for framing of guidelines under the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, which ensures that students should not expelled from schools on account of their HIV status.
But away from the hallowed Court of Justice, Savio and the dozen-odd HIV positive students, continue to face social discrimination and appear to be losing the fight to lead a normal life and pursue regular education.
The HIV positive students, who belong to a children’s home run by nuns in Quepem, in South Goa, were in June denied admissions to another school at Sulcorna village nearby, also run by Salesian priests, following similar protests there.
In June, officials of the Goa Chapter of the Indian Medical Association too tried to convince the parents of the Sulcorna school to drop their opposition to admitting the HIV positive students, but to no avail.
“The parents there, were worried that their students too could contract HIV if these children mingle with them. In our session we tried to dispel this myth and explain to them that HIV does not spread like that,” Jagdish Cakaodkar of the IMA had said then.
The students, of varying ages and standards, had been studying via open school curriculum until the nuns who run the Children’s Home decided to admit them to regular schools in the vicinity. “We have in fact been to more than two schools since the beginning of the academic year in June, but in other places too there was resistance,” spokesperson for the Children’s Home said on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, the Goa’s State Commission for Protection of Child Rights intervened, directing the State police and the South Goa district administration to tighten up law and order and ensure that 13 HIV positive children do not get discriminated against in school.
“We will be meeting with the parents to solve this issue. Not all the parents of other students are supporting the PTA which has raised objections,” the Commissions chairperson Samira Kazi said, when contacted.
Editor’s Note: Name of the HIV positive student has been altered to protect identity.