On Tuesday, three young boys from Kerala who were allegedly held captive for a decade by their parents in North Paravur, Ernakulam, were taken to a government home by the Child Welfare Committee district authorities. While the family has denied that the children were being held captive, and said that they were being homeschooled, the officials are now investigating whether the allegations are true.
The boys, aged six, 11 and 12, were rescued based on complaints by their neighbours, who alleged that the children were confined to their house and not allowed to go outside by their parents.
The children were being raised in the first floor of a two storey building in Mannanam in North Paravur. Their father Abdul Latheef (47) and mother Lekha were reportedly homeschooling them. However, neighbours claimed that the children were not allowed to mingle with others, and only stepped out to buy vegetables.
The father had told the media that he won’t allow the children to learn Kerala state syllabus or any syllabus from India, but he was teaching them syllabus from Arabic countries.
Based on the District Collector's order, the Tahsildar and Child Protection Officer from the Social Justice Department took custody of the children on Tuesday. On Monday, the father had refused authorities to enter the house. After much persuasion, the man then opened the gate for the Tahasildar.
"When questioned, the father said that he did not want his children learning something written by random people. Their mother, who is an advocate, has been teaching the kids," said Sabu, SI of North Paravur station.
"But for going to their neighbourhood shop, the children were not allowed to step out of the house or socialise with others,” CWC Ernakulam Chairperson Padmaja Nair said.
“Homeschooling is allowed. The problem is that these kids were not allowed to socialise with anybody. Even if the children claim that they are happy with the way they were being raised, it is the duty of the CWC to ensure that care and protection of these children have not been compromised," she added.
The children and their mother are currently in the temporary custody of a Child Welfare Committee member in the district, Padmaja confirmed.
“On Friday, there will be an inquiry. We will conduct tests on the children which include psychological assessments and tests to know if they were being educated, to learn if the parents have flouted the law. Tests will also be conducted on the parents to understand their mindset," Padmaja said.
Following the inquiry, a case will be registered on the parents, if they are found to be guilty.
A preliminary investigation by authorities had found that the children had not been given any primary education.
Reports have also quoted the father saying that he did not believe in the India education system and the children were being raised in an education syllabus being followed in Arab countries.
Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2010 stipulates eight years of compulsory formal education for children from 6-14 years in the country. However, parents can opt to home school their children. There is no separate syllabus governing home schoolers. Home schooled students can appear for board exams as private candidates by registering with the National Institute of Open schooling. They can even take any syllabus which allows them to sit as private candidates or attach themselves to a school for taking the exam.