EWS admissions become a costly affair

Parents lose daily wages doing rounds of schools and government offices as schools dither on admissions

pujab

Puja Bhattacharjee | February 16, 2012


Red tape and confusion is key to the private schools` strategy to keep EWS admissions at bay
Red tape and confusion is key to the private schools` strategy to keep EWS admissions at bay

It was around four in the afternoon on a Monday and cool, late-winter breeze blew, but the crowd in front of Ahlcon International School, in southeast Delhi’s Mayur Vihar appeared far from relaxed. It had gathered for the draw of the lottery for the economically weaker section (EWS) seats under the right to education (RTE) at the school. Most in the crowd were working-class parents, who had come hoping that their kid would make the lot. The gates opened and a man came out and announced that the draw had been cancelled. The crowd let out a collective groan of disapproval and disappointment.

Ranjita Barua, who had applied for a seat for her three-year-old son, laments the school authorities’ apathy, even disdain. “The draw was originally scheduled for February 4. I had walked two and a half kilometers from my home just to be informed that it had been rescheduled for February 6, which is today. Today again the same thing has happened. They have asked us to come back next week” complained Barua.

Most of the parents were unaware of the distance criteria for the EWS admissions fixed by the Delhi high court. The court had said that the schools will first have to admit children living within 1 km and if the seats remain vacant then, they will admit those living within three km, and later, those living within 6 km or beyond. When informed about it, some of them panicked. “There is no good school within 1 km from my home. If I had known, I would have shifted to somewhere near Ahlcon. Does this mean my children won’t be eligible for admissions in the big private schools?”  asked Yasmin.

Confusion became the order of the day. “Other schools had informed us via text messages when the draw was postponed. But this school refuses to co-operate,” said  Vinod Singh, showing the messages on his cell phone. There were texts from Victor Public School, Patparganj and Universal Public School, Preet Vihar, both in east Delhi, informing him about the change in dates.

When Governance Now contacted the Ahlcon authorities about the cancelled draw, a representative said that the school was still reviewing the high court order.

The parents said that they would be compelled to send their kids to government schools if the RTE-guaranteed private school admissions did not work out. “I studied in a government school and I am aware of the quality of education they impart there. I don’t want that for my children,” Yasmin rued. All the parents unequivocally agreed that government schools are infamous for their truant teachers. Those who do turn up at the schools are busy knitting or making small talk with colleagues, one of the parents said, as others nodded in agreement. “Educating the children is not their priority,” another quipped.

The men especially were furious with the callous attitude of the school. “My boss has told me to stay at home if I miss another day at work” said Salman. “The school doesn’t empathise with us. Is it possible for me to keep taking leave from work according to their whims and fancies?” asked an agitated Singh. For those who had travelled long distances on foot, this was a harrowing experience.

According to Thomas Anthony who works for Josh, an NGO, the schools are not clear about the RTE’s EWS norms. “The directorate of education had clearly ordered that income certificates are not required if the families belong to the BPL category. But many schools rejected admission forms of the parents who could not furnish an income certificate. It takes 21 days for the request for an income certificate to get processed. In the absence of it, these schools were not even accepting the slips provided by the sub-divisional magistrate’s office though Mr. Lovely had assured slips would be accepted”.  The parents who went to the education department’s deputy director’s office for grievance redressal were met with chaos as there is no proper system in place to deal with such situation. It is even alleged that some of the complaint forms were torn up.

Thomas cites the example of Amity International School, Mayur Vihar which had earlier declared February 26 as the date of the draw for the first standard admissions under EWS scheme but had suddenly changed the date to January 30. On being contacted, a member of the school authority said that the parents were notified via snail mail about the change in dates. But many parents had not received the letter till February 2. The school blamed postal delays and said that it would not have been possible for the school to send out 300 SMSes informing the parents when Governance Now pointed out that other schools had done so. The list of the draw is yet to be published. “The parents have been told to go watch the video footage of the draw at the directorate of education. The school authorities refuse to speak to activists or parents. The guard at the gate is the only person from the school who speaks to us,” informed Thomas. This is the scenario in most private schools in Delhi.

Thomas echoes Yasmin’s concern. “Most of the slums and resettlement colonies are located in Trilokpuri and Kalyanpuri which comes within a radius of two to two and a half kilometers from the private schools. The only other alternative if all fails is a small private school or government institutions.” Most of the parents are getting frustrated at being turned away repeatedly.

“Each day we miss work, we lose Rs. 300-400 which we get as wage. We can keep making the rounds if we are certain that something would come out of it. But nothing is certain,” says Singh with anguish.

The crowd thins as the disappointed parents make their way home. All that they can do now is wait — and pray.

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