A government-aided school in Thiruvananthapuram has denied admission to a couple who wanted their kid to choose his own religion after growing up, according to a local media report.
“Going by what the principal says, we have to declare a particular religion now,” said Nazeem, the father of the child who was refused admission at St Mary’s School in Pattom, Thiruvanathapuram. “They are saying that we have to raise our kid according to the principles of one or the other religion,” he told Malayalam news channel Asianet News.
St Mary’s is one of the largest schools in Asia and has thousands of students. It is run by the Malankara Church, one of the oldest religious institutions in the country with a history of nearly 1,500 years. The Church, with its headquarters in Kerala, is distinct from the Roman Catholic Church.
FREEDOM TO CHOOSE
Nazeem and his wife Dhanya, who are from different religious backgrounds, decided to raise their child in a neutral environment, and were unwilling to write Hindu or Muslim in the school admission form.
Instead, the couple wrote ‘Nil’ in the religion column.
However, school authorities refused to process the admission form, saying ‘nil’ was not an acceptable input.
The couple said that when they insisted, the head of the lower primary section said she would consult with the management authorities if any consideration can be given.
Finally, said the couple, she came up with a formula that involved the couple submitting a legal affidavit on the child’s religious identity. It was not clear how the school authorities wanted the affidavit to be framed.
At this point, the couple pointed out that even government schools do not deny admission to children of irreligious or atheistic couples.
When she pointed this out to the top management, said the head of the LP section, the management was of the opinion that the couple should, in that case, explore that option.
Given that no school, least of all one whose teacher are paid by the Kerala government, can discriminate between applicants on the basis of their religion, the couple approached Asianet News, one of the top television news channels in the state.
Once Asianet News contacted the school authorities, they were more willing to get the student admitted, said the news channel.
However, the couple decided against enrolling their son in the institution, considered one of the best in Kerala on academic grounds.
The couple’s plight has drawn varying response on social media, with most Malayalees expressing their support for the Dhanya and Naseem.
However, some expressed worries that a child that grows up with no religion or caste may find its growth prospects hampered in the future as many government incentives and schemes are available only to members of certain religious and ethnic groups.