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Parents Demand Expulsion of Kids' HIV+ Schoolmates

In a shocking development, the parents of 150 students have threatened to withdraw their children from a zilla parishad primary school in Latur district if the ten HIV–positive students in the school are not expelled immediately.

The school, set up a decade ago, has a total of 220 students in classes one through six.

Since the school reopened in the second week of June, these 150 students have remained absent for fear of infection. “We fear that if our children play with HIV–positive kids, they too will contract the dreaded disease. We don’t want our students to continue their education in this school,” a parent told TOI on Saturday.

School education secretary Sanjay Kumar and Latur education officer Vilas Joshi confirmed the development, adding that it was unfortunate. “The isolation of HIV–positive students is not possible. We’ll have to meet the parents who are seeking the expulsion of HIV kids. We’ll intensify counselling. I'm sure our efforts will yield positive results,” Sanjay Kumar said.

The government has ordered a probe into the episode. A senior government official said the government wanted to ensure that not a single HIV–positive child was expelled.

Local journalist Ravi Baptaley has set up an NGO called Sevalaya in Hasegaon village, Latur district, to provide shelter to HIV–positive children. From a couple of dozen HIV–positive students, ten were admitted to the zilla parishad primary school. Initially there was support for Sevalaya's efforts. But soon after the academic session for the primary section began, the students' HIV status became a hot topic of discussion, not only in the school but in the entire village.

The parents of 150 children in the school then decided they would not send their children to classes until the HIV–positive students were expelled. When the matter reached district headquarters, Joshi, along with a team of doctors, visited the village to pacify the agitated parents. “We had several rounds of talks with the parents. We explained that their children would not get AIDS. However, there was no answer to one question: Can the infection be passed on if an HIV–positive student bites another student? Since the doctor couldn’t provide an explanation, the parents decided to withdraw their children from the school,” a senior official said.

To further pressure the zilla parishad administration into expelling the students, the villagers at a well–attended meeting unanimously passed a resolution to withdraw their children from school if the HIV–positive students were not expelled.

Activists working for the welfare of the HIV–positive students were shocked by the approach of the education officer, who reportedly promised the agitating parents that the HIV–positive students would be segregated. “At a juncture when we are treating HIV and non–HIV students on par, Joshi’s assurance is shocking. He must ensure that there's no discrimination," an activist said.

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Source: Times of India




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