A 7-year-old boy, who was asked to leave the school for being HIV-positive five months ago, is set to resume classes on Monday. This comes after the West Bengal administration finally managed to convince the parents of hundred-odd children at the private school in Bishnupur area of South-24 Parganas district to let their wards study alongside the boy.
As soon as the information regarding his condition, which was supposed to be confidential, got leaked, a group of parents had signed a petition demanding that the boy be asked to leave the school or they wouldn’t allow their wards to study there. The boy’s maternal grandmother, a teacher in the same school, was forced to take an HIV test to prove her “purity”.
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State women and child development minister Sashi Panja had ordered the local administration to ensure that the boy returns to his schools following which officials held a meeting with school authorities and the parents Saturday. “The larger problem was one of awareness and can only be solved through conversation, so that the other families accept the boy. The meeting of the local child welfare committee, district administration officials and the parents was convened at the school to ensure this,” confirmed Panja.
The school’s headmaster, Sanjib Naskar, said, “We are happy to welcome the boy back. We had never stopped him from coming to school…other parents had protested. Now we’re glad he’s going to be with us. We will ensure that his needs are taken care of and he doesn’t face any issues”.
The boy’s mother, who had tested positive in January, and is now working with an NGO, SNP+, engaged in spreading awareness about HIV, said she was earlier told the school authorities were planning of setting up a different room for the boy “where he’ll sit alone away from the others”.
“That wasn’t acceptable to me. My fear was that even if my son continues his classes, he will be treated badly and this will affect him. But after the meeting today, I think things will improve. I am also infected and I hope that others don’t have to suffer like me,” the mother said.
But perhaps the most ecstatic at the news is the 7-year-old. Usually shy, the boy excitedly told everyone that he will again go to school. “I have packed my bag and taken out my uniform. My diary, my notebook and all other things are inside. I am so excited because I will meet my friends,” he said.
“This is very good news and we hope that he can be reintegrated into his school and among his peers without any issues. Hopefully, this case will help in spreading awareness, not just in the area but in other places too,” said Khitish Mondol, an official at the SNP+.