PUNE: It has been over five months since 63-year-old H Khan’s grandchildren were asked to leave their school. In January, the school also returned the children’s’ admission fee. Khan claims the reason is because their father is a Pakistan national.
School authorities have maintained that the children were only given provisional admission and were asked to leave the institution due to non-submission of relevant documents. State education minister Vinod Tawde has promised to look into the matter stating that no child will be denied education in the country simply due to their nationality.
While the two children were admitted to Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society (MCES) English medium primary school at the beginning of this academic year, trouble started when Khan sought a bona fide certificate from the institution. “This was around the time of the Uri attack when the relationship between India and Pakistan was at its worst. The school refused to give a bona fide certificate and eventually told me not to send the children to school,” Khan recalls.
Khan’s daughter moved to Pakistan in search of a job 17 years ago. There she fell in love with a Pakistani national and was married in 1999. She also became a Pakistani national. They had four children, two boys and two girls.
“My daughter was then diagnosed with cancer. After that, her husband left her and washed his hands off any responsibility of the children. At the time, they were working and living in Dubai and the children were studying in a CBSE school. My daughter didn’t want her illness to affect their education so, in February 2015, the children came to live with me. The youngest daughter still lives with her in Dubai,” she said.
At first, the family considered sending the children to a boarding school. Khan looked for schools in Panchgani but the high cost of education restricted them to Pune. The eldest son is in Std X and has been admitted to a school in Ambe-Narhe, the younger son and daughter were in Std III and Std II at MCES English medium school until last September.
“The children, being Pakistani nationals, require a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). The FRRO office has said it will issue the NOC after getting a bona fide certificate from the school. But the school says that they will issue a bona fide only if the FRO office issues a NOC,” said Khan, who has been running from pillar to post seeking help over the last five months.
Finally, the school asked the students not to attend classes stating that the admission was given provisionally on condition that they submit the relevant documents.
“The entire paper work is complete. The children have a visa ‘under consideration’ until 2020. While my eldest grandson’s school had no problem issuing a bona fide certificate stating that he is a student of the institution, MCES says it can’t issue the bona fide letter as the students have not been studying there for a long time. While the children were prevented from attending school since September last year, the school management returned the fee only in January,” she added.
Khan points out that life is not easy for anybody with a Pakistani tag attached to them, especially in the present circumstances. She hardly ever refers to Pakistan by name in her conversations, always referring to the country as ‘that place’. While sitting in her small home, located in the Camp area, she keeps her voice low as she recounts her ordeal, lest her neighbours hear her.
“There is an increased tension between the two countries. They are so young that they don’t even understand what is happening. The children keep asking when they can go back to school. They are bright students and have got certificates of merit from previous schools. What wrong have they done that their future is being spoiled? I am now trying to seek admission in other schools,” said Khan.
Problems between two countries should not affect children’s education. I will look into the issue. We will see that no law is violated. At the same time, we also want to make sure that no child’s education is ruined. Once the case is studied, proper solution will be found. It is wrong to refuse admission to children just because the students are Pakistani but we also need to see what the law states in such cases
Vinod Tawde | state education minister
The students were given provisional admission. They had been studying here for some months when we came to know that they are from Pakistan. Despite telling the children’s’ grandmother to submit their education visa, among other documents, nothing was submitted to us. How can we allow the students to continue here without necessary documents, especially when we know they are from Pakistan? We cannot give them a bona fide certificate because they have not submit relevant documents. Hence, we have told the students to not come to school
What the FRRO says?
DCP Shrikant Pathak of the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Pune said that the standard procedure is to get bona fide certificate before giving a no objection certificate. “How do we know if the student is actually studying in the school without a letter from the institution? This is a standard procedure even for other foreign nationals studying in various educational institutes across the city. No institute has any problem with issuing a bona fide certificate for their students. When a person’s visa extension is under consideration, he can stay in the country legally. While other nationalities get education visa, the same does not apply for those from Pakistan and they just get a general visa, issued by Ministry of External Affairs, to stay in the country,” Pathak explained.