Parents of students of an Indian school are in a fix, with the new academic year around the corner.
When the re-registration for the next academic year started, the school administration included a new and highly-overpriced fee of QR1,200 for an RFID card per annum for each child.
This was done by the school authorities without taking into account several concerns the parents had raised regarding the radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.
To the queries of the parents, the only answer they gave was – the Ministry of Education has approved it.
Please let me list some of the major concerns of the parents about the electronic tracking system:
1. Health Issues – RFID involves sources of electromagnetic radiation in close proximity of children on the school campus, classroom and transport.
The effect of such radiation on human health, especially in children, is still a grey area and its safety parameters need to be researched and studied.
This indeed is the primary concern of most parents.
2. Psychological Issues – Schools are the places where children hone their skills and knowledge and get prepared to face the challenges awaiting them ahead.
The constant monitoring and tracking of their movements using an RFID device may leave a lasting negative impact on their psychological development, and is an encroachment on their privacy and civil liberties as well.
3. Privacy and Rights Violation – RFID monitoring will hinder the growth of students into normal and whole individuals as it will dissuade them from learning to express their thoughts, and curtail their freedom of speech and movement, which are basic values of human rights.
For example, a child, who needs counselling may be ashamed to go to a counsellor for fear of having to face humiliation.
Or children may withhold the need to use rest rooms due to the constant fear of being monitored.
4. Inhumane Practice – It is indeed disheartening to hear of an educational institution that is supposed to instil in our children the values of trust, honesty and respect; by introducing these tags they are sending just the opposite message, “You are not trustworthy and are suspicious”.
They may feel they are being treated like animals (as many of them know of pets being implanted with RFID).
It is inhumane to tag and track children like livestock or products in an industrial warehouse.
5. Hidden Readers and Tags – These can be fixed almost anywhere and people may be monitored without their knowledge, unaware if he/ she is being tagged and can amount to unreasonable search and again an encroachment on privacy, all under the pretext of maintaining discipline.
6. Misinformation / Misuse – The RFID tags can be tampered with – by accident or with intent – to be misused in various ways to cheat or outsmart the system by children who loathe the idea of being tagged.
The same goes for the data collected, if they are used for purposes other than what they are collected for in the first place or if an unauthorised person gains access to it.
7. Social, Cultural, Ethical and Religious Issues – Social, cultural, ethical and religious beliefs are part of families.
The introduction of mandatory RFID badges in schools brings into the picture a plethora of conflicts based on these factors.
8. Outrageous cost – The cost of QR1,200/per year for a child for an RFID (tag) is just adding to the burden on the parents who are already shelling out a huge amount as tuition and other fees every year.
It must be noted that this new and fancy ID is not at all improving the quality of academics.
Besides, security personnel and the CCTV surveillance in and around the school are enough to maintain discipline.
Parents feel that such new technologies should be introduced in schools only after sufficient deliberation, discussions and consensus among all the parties involved – children, parents, teachers, school management, and officials from the respective ministries.
All parties concerned should be aware of the purpose of introducing the RFID tags and their long-term side effects on the overall development of children, particularly when serious concerns have been raised about the hazards of the device.
(Name and address supplied)