THE UPA government under the guidance of Sonia Gandhi may have been gloating about the Right to Education Act, but how serious are its own state governmemnts? For over two weeks, Adishree Gopalkrishnan, a Class 9 student of a prestigious school in Mumbai, is struggling to enter her school, but the management cancelled her admission abruptly. Her ' crime' being that her mother Dr Avisha Kulkarni had led a fight of over 1000 parents with the school management in 2008 and had submitted a letter to the police last year that she apprehends threat to her own life.
Vibgyor School in Goregaon, where Adishree has been studying for over five years now, is known as one of the most elite schools in Mumbai. The students here include Oscar- winner Resool Pukutty's kids and those of celebrity drummer Sivamani.
The fees, naturally, are sky high and some of the parents think they are abnormal. As one parent pointed out, even Neeta Ambani's Kokilaben International School and the Poddar International School don't charge as much.
Trouble began in 2008 when the school hiked its fees from Rs 45000 to Rs 82000, without any consent from parents. Dr Kulkarni, who has been a social activist herself, led the struggle and filed petitions in the Bombay High Court and the state education department. Fees were reduced by a hefty Rs 25000, after the Education department calculated the fees on instructions from the High Court. Dr Kulkarni paid the revised fees, but her daughter Adishree started facing trouble.
Twice, her workbooks went missing in a mysterious manner, following which she had to write the assignments all over again.
When Dr Kulkarni wrote a stern letter holding the principal responsible for future incidents, they stopped immediately. In the meantime, Dr Kulkarni claims, she also received calls that threatened her, one of which she recorded and handed over the tape to the police. All of this took place in July 2009, and Dr Kulkarni thought the worst was over.
The school seemed to have fallen in line and Adishree's fees for the 2010- 11 academic year were accepted by the school; and books and uniforms were given to her. The twist was reserved for the eve of the school re- opening day. The school management, in its own capacity cancelled Adishree's admission and told her that she cannot attend the school. Dr Kulkarni went to the school to ask why they accepted the fees in the first place if they did not want the child. But the school spokesperson maintained the management had taken the dceision in its own capacity.
The issue became murkier after Raj Thackeray's MNS decided to join the issue with Dr Kulkarni and tried to resolve the problem in their usual violent manner . It did not help as the school now claims that Dr Kulkarni had instigated the attack, a claim vehemently denied by Dr Kulkarni.
Dr Kulkarni states that she has been patiently fighting the management since 2008 and she has been fighting a legal, democratic battle that had not turned violent at any stage. It is pertinent to mention here that Dr Kulkarni had upheld the cause of bargirls after they lost their jobs following the state government's decision to ban dance bars. She was also one of the founding members of the Women's Party of India, the first and only women's party in India, formed in early 2001. Her party contested a few seats in 2001 civic polls but lost miserably.
The school says that if Dr Kulkarni apprehends harm to her and her child, then why does she want to keep Adishree in the same school. According to a spokesperson of the school, the decision to keep Adishree was taken much earlier, but they decided to deny admission in June as they thought her mother may misuse the media to malign the school's name.
When asked why the decision was not conveyed to Dr Kulkarni in time so that she could seek admission for her child in some other school, the spokesperson says there was no right time or wrong time to do so. " She keeps filing false complaints; the other parents are opposed to keeping Adishree in the school; what could we do?" asks the spokesperson.
The point that should be noted here is that very few parents would show the courage to defy the management's wishes as they are concerned about their own children studying in the same school. Those who supported Dr Kulkarni were asked to take their children elsewhere and they did so as they did not want to continue the battle. Dr Kulkarni may be termed as eccentric for still keeping the child in the same school that she is fighting with, but she still holds the right to do so.