In early May, the police control room received an unusual distress call. A Kengeri resident called to say his son, whose class 6 annual exam wasn’t held due to the Covid-19 lockdown, had been failed by his school. Following swift response from officials at the Bengaluru city police commissionerate, the boy’s school promoted him to class 7.
The school’s move to detain the child was in violation of a state government order mandating all students up to class 8 be promoted in view of the disruption in academic activities due to the lockdown and a Right to Education Act requirement, under which no child can be failed up to class 8.
The man reported that his son, who studied at a private school, had just received his annual report card and had been failed. Realising he’d have to continue another year in the same class, the boy and his father were heartbroken. “The affected boy was in tears as he complained over phone to police. As the distress call was related to a child, the case was transferred to us,” Bindya Yohannan, counsellor at Parihar Makkala Sahayavani (child helpline) at the commissionerate said.
Considering the boy couldn’t attend his annual exam due to the lockdown in the state, Yohannan contacted the school principal, who claimed they hadn’t promoted the child as he was very poor in studies and had performed badly in earlier examinations during the academic year.
Yohannan then approached child helpline experts and ascertained that there was a Karnataka government order mandating schools promote children till class 8, mainly during the lockdown owing to the pandemic.
“As per the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, school authorities must promote children till class 8, irrespective of their academic performance throughout the year,” said Nagasimha G Rao, convener, RTE taskforce. Following inputs from Rao, Yohannan dialled the school principal. “We convinced him that as per the government order, they aren’t supposed to fail the boy and he should be promoted,” Rani Shetty, head of Parihar, said.
Much to the delight of Parihar staff, the school authorities contacted them a few hours later to say the earlier report card had been cancelled and the boy had been promoted to class 7. The commissionerate staff soon contacted the child’s father and gave the good news directly to the boy.