Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chaos, controversy over nursery admission test patience of parents

Chaos, controversy over nursery admission test patience of parents

Written by Shikha Sharma | New Delhi | March 17, 2014 1:11 am
Parents queue up for nursery admission forms at a city school. (Express Archive) Parents queue up for nursery admission forms at a city school. (Express Archive)


In 2013, the Delhi High Court ruled that the RTE Act was not admissible with respect to nursery admissions beyond the 25 per cent EWS seats.
What set the nursery admission season this year apart from past years was the unprecedented participation of parents in the litigation process. As the admission season drags on, dissatisfaction over the new guidelines remains. While schools blame the ‘government’s tyrannical approach’ for the confusion, the latter blames ‘vested interests for creating hurdles in the way of implementation of a common, fair policy’. SHIKHA SHARMA & Ujala Chowdhry report
It has been a particularly tumultuous time for parents seeking nursery admission for their children this year. A completely new set of rules — and ensuing litigation on its different aspects, first by schools and then by various sets of parents — meant that the admission process saw more chaos and controversy than ever before. As the admission season drags on, dissatisfaction over the new guidelines remain. While schools blame the “government’s tyrannical approach” for the confusion, the government blames “vested interests for creating hurdles for implementation of a common, fair policy”.
“When fresh nursery guidelines were announced in December 2013, everyone appreciated the new guidelines, except the private schools — which was understandable since the guidelines quashed management quota. But then, different sets of aggrieved parents started going to court. While some had genuine concerns, there were also a lot of vested interests. So, the process, engulfed in litigation, kept delaying itself till we reached where we are now,” Padmini Singla, Director, Directorate of Education, said.
According to Singla, “excessive litigation, so close to dates of admission, coupled with anxious parents looking to get their children ‘admitted in the top 50 schools in the city’ compounded the problem”.
This year, Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung made radical changes to nursery admission guidelines, completely taking away schools’ discretionary powers and setting up a uniform point system — one which gave maximum emphasis to neighbourhood, besides allotting points for sibling, alumni and inter-transfer cases.
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“Till last year, every school had its own criteria. This year, we formed a common criteria. It was totally new. Anything new takes time to settle with the public. That time was very less, leading to confusion and chaos amongst parents. That said, the guidelines were made with the right intentions and are an improvement over the arbitrary point system schools were subjecting parents to,” she said.
However, the schools disagree — blaming failure on the part of the government to consult all stakeholders for the chaos instead. “The government cannot take major policy decisions on its own. It should have consulted the advisory board, school bodies and academicians before coming out with a decision. These guidelines are against the principle of autonomy, under which unaided private schools have been given the power by the central government to formulate their own admission criteria for 75 per cent of the seats. The government’s thoughtless decisions have brought us to the position we are standing in,” Ameeta Mulla Wattal, Principal, Springdales School, Pusa Road, said.
Absence of a stable government also played a role in bringing out “half-baked guidelines”, says Sumit Vohra, founder,, a portal representing city parents. “Let us not forget that in the absence of a stable government, the L-G was under pressure to come up with a set of new guidelines… Social Jurist had already made a representation to the L-G to fix admission norms, which was followed by a High Court direction,” he said.
The process for nursery admissions has been embroiled in litigation for the last few years. In 2007 and in 2010, lawyer-activist group Social Jurist had challenged the government’s decision to allow schools to allot points, arguing that inclusion of any category beyond neighbourhood and draw of lots went against the spirit of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
In 2013, the Delhi High Court ruled that the RTE Act was not admissible with respect to nursery admissions beyond the 25 per cent EWS seats. The judgment was challenged and the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. The guidelines by the L-G came to force after Social Jurist made a representation to Jung to come up with a new order.
However, what set this admission season apart from the rest was unprecedented participation of parents in the litigation process. Five sets of parents, who had never been to court, took the legal route. “It has never happened before. But, it’s a good sign. The fact that so many parents can organise themselves, knock the doors of court and demand their rights,” lawyer Khagesh Jha of Social Jurist said.
According to lawyer Ashok Agarwal of Social Jurist, “The very fact that parents are not trying to pay their way for a seat and instead knocking the court’s door is a welcome sign.”
“In totality, there are no dearth of seats in city schools. But when everyone is looking to get their children into the ‘so-called best schools’ in the city, it is then we have a problem. And frankly, the problem will continue till the problem of supply and demand is solved,” D R Saini, Principal, DPS, R K Puram, said.
“The most that can be done is to put caps on alumni, sibling and other criteria. Having categories apart from neighbourhood will always be discriminatory and contested against,” Agarwal said.
Tough battle for parents of kids with special needs
The three-and-half-year-old boy wakes up at 7.30 in the morning, attends a therapy centre near his house, comes back at 12.30 and is again sent to various centres for different kinds of therapies. The boy was born with Down syndrome. His parents are facing a tough battle for his nursery admission in Delhi.
Post December 18, 2013, guidelines passed by Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung for admissions to nursery, the silent minority of parents of Children With Special Needs (CWSN) have been running around the national capital for admissions to a decent school, which has proper infrastructure to take care of mentally challenged children. “In this city of 917 schools, only 43 have some infrastructure to accommodate our kids. Out of which, there are only a couple, which are actually willing to take our kids in, rest are just trying to evade us. It doesn’t take a lot of infrastructure to make special arrangements in schools for our kids,” his mother said.
The High Court on February 26 this year passed an order that private schools should work out a separate 3 per cent quota to accommodate these children.
Before the L-G’s guidelines for nursery admissions, the CWSN group had a separate draw of lots for admissions. But now as per the guidelines, there is a 25 per cent reservation in all schools for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Disadvantaged Groups (DG); both these sections are subjected to a common draw of lots. “This has significantly reduced the chances of children with mental and physically disabilities to compete for a spot in good schools,” she said.
Paying Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month on special care, these parents have their own battles to fight everyday. “There is a 70 per cent chance of recovery for our kids if they mingle with normal kids of their age,” another parent, whose four-year-old son suffers from autism, said.
In Old Delhi, they run out of admission options
He lives in the heart of the city. He has applied to 18 schools in and around his area, but hasn’t been able to secure admission for his four-year-old daughter in even one of them. Nursery admissions are a time of difficulty for city parents — more so, for parents in Old Delhi.
This year, the problem seems to have been compounded on account of where they stay. “There are hardly any good schools in this area. Till last year, a parent could apply to as many schools as possible. But the eight-km distance criteria has meant that this year we have limited options,” Asif Iqbal, who stays near Turkman Gate, said.
According to information provided by the Directorate of Education, there are a total of 28 private schools in Central Delhi and 13 in the New Delhi area. Of these, around 10 are minority institutions, free to devise their own rules.
“Not that we have many options every year but this year, thanks to the neighbourhood criteria, the options are even less,” Muhammad Aslam said.
Aslam is struggling to get his daughter enrolled in a good school. “I have applied in schools in Central Delhi and a few in Noida. But, I am not very keen on sending my four-year-old as far as Noida,” he said.
For some like Furqan Khan, an EWS parent, the odds are stacked even higher. “The rules mean that I have to locate a school for my daughter in Old Delhi only. I have applied to seven-eight schools, but haven’t heard from even one,” he said.
Residents say that “proving one is an EWS parent is an ordeal in itself because of the difficulty in getting residential certificates made”. “Most of us don’t have permanent residential proof. Our houses are registered in the names of our ancestors and setting the paperwork right takes time. Schools don’t have that kind of time,” Imran Khan said.
While some like Furqan Khan are contemplating enrolling their children in playschools, others are thinking of “home-schooling their children”. “What option do we have? We can’t even ask the government to build more schools here because the area is too congested to build a proper school,” Khan said. “Galli mohalle ke school mein hee padhana padega bachhon ko (We’ll have to enroll our children in the street schools,” he said.
(Ujala Chowdhry)

Zilla Parishad helpline gets lukewarm response

Kolhapur: The primary education department of the Kolhapur zilla parishad (ZP) has received merely four calls from beneficiaries over the last four days after introducing its helpline for the admission process under the 25% quota of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.

The ZP had launched the helpline number earlier this week for RTE beneficiaries in case they face any problems with the admission procedure. Admission to reserved seats under the RTE Act is meant for students from socially and economically backward classes.

An education department official said on the condition of anonymity that lack of proper awareness about the helpline as well as the admission procedure is the main cause of the department having received a lukewarm response.

Anuradha Bhosale, vice-chairman of a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works for school education, Avani, told TOI, "The department should make sure the helpline number reaches the grass root level, which means people whose kids could get admission under the 25% quota scheme. We are talking about parents who cannot afford heavy educational expenses for their wards. How can they contact concerned authorities unless they are not themselves aware about the helpline number? The department is not making efforts that would actually help these people. It is just completing the formality."

Bhosale added that the department is ill-prepared about the admission procedure. It should reach out to slum areas and arrange better awareness campaigns.

A city-based school principal told TOI on the condition of anonymity, "Many parents do not reach out to schools with better education facilities. An inferiority complex, lack of awareness and many other reasons play a major role in the 25% seats being vacant despite lack of financial burden on the beneficiary." Earlier, the Kolhapur ZP primary education officer had asked all block development officers to commence admissions under the 25% RTE quota at the block level.

Parents or beneficiaries with queries or complaints can contact the ZP on the helpline number 18002331215 from 10am to 5pm during weekdays.

Govt. to hold special camps to admit out-of-school children

Govt. to hold special camps to admit out-of-school children

Special Correspondent
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They will be held in villages and taluks during the third and fourth week of March

The State government on Monday told the High Court of Karnataka that special admission camps would be held in villages and taluks during the third and fourth week of March to admit out-of-school children to nearby schools.
A submission in this regard was made by the government counsel during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition initiated suo motu by the court last year based on a newspaper report about children remaining out of school despite the Right to Education Act.
Meanwhile, the government also told the court that around 30,000 children had been admitted to various private schools under the 25 per cent quota of the RTE Act for the ensuing academic year.
It was also submitted on behalf of the government that the RTE Rules were being amended to bring down number of school dropouts.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna, which is hearing the petition, adjourned further hearing till April 8, while orally asking the State to ensure that the school dropout rate came down to zero. The government would have to take appropriate steps to achieve this task, it said.
Notice to government
In another case, the Bench on Monday ordered issue of notice to the State government and the Lokayukta on a PIL petition, which alleged that special deputy commissioners were illegally exercising powers on appeals and revisions about disputes on mutation entries under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964.
In their petitions, freedom fighters H.S. Doreswamy and Suresh Chandra Babu alleged that the special DCs were illegally exercising powers even after the government in October 2011 entrusted only deputy commissioners to deal with appeals or revision under Section 136 (3) of the Act.
Despite this directive, more than 1,000 appeals had been dealt with by special DCs in Bangalore and as many as 680 appeals had been dealt with by a single officer occupying this post, the petitioner alleged.
The Bench ordered issue of notice to the Lokayukta on a oral request made by the petitioners’ counsel, while pointing out that an investigation ordered by the High Court in 2011 against special DC Ramanjaneya and others was closed by the Lokayukta in November last year citing that there was no complainant.
The court also ordered issue of notice to several officials who had occupied the post of special DC in Bangalore Urban district, including the incumbents.

SSA officials track down dropouts in Udupi, re-enrol them

SSA officials track down dropouts in Udupi, re-enrol them

Special Correspondent
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SLIDING AWAY: SSA survey reveals that some children dropped out because their school was far, some to help parents in farm and many have migrated.
The Hindu SLIDING AWAY: SSA survey reveals that some children dropped out because their school was far, some to help parents in farm and many have migrated.

Of 812 dropouts in Udupi, 199 are back in class

As many as 812 children dropped out of the schools in Udupi district in 2013-14. As per the Right to Education (RTE) Act, all children between 6 and 14 years have to be provided free and compulsory education.
This figure of 812 out-of-school children is high compared to the past two years — 123 dropouts in 2012-13 and 86 in 2011-12. But in 2011-12 and 2012-13, the dropouts were based only on field survey.
This year (2013-14), in addition to field survey, the officials of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) verified the school records. The verification involved checking if transfer certificates were taken by the students.
P. Nagaraj, Deputy Project Coordinator of SSA, said of a total 1,008 children who dropped out in the district, 13 had died, while 183 names were found to be repeated. This meant that 812 students had dropped out. Of this 812 students, 439 had migrated to other districts and places with their parents.
The officials went and traced 199 dropouts and their parents and convinced them to return to schools. “As a result, 199 children had been enrolled in schools in the district. We will trace and convince the remaining 174 students and get them admitted to the nearby schools in April or May. These students will be given three months training under Chinnara Angala programme,” Mr. Nagaraj said.
Under Chinnara Angala, an intensive form of the curriculum is taught after which the children are enrolled in the appropriate regular classes.
The Udupi district SSA has given the names of 439 migrated children to its State office to check if these children have enrolled themselves in schools in other places.
The SSA had also done a survey of why the students had dropped out of the schools. “Some children had dropped out because the school was far, some to help their parents in household work and agriculture. Many children had migrated to other places with their parents,” Mr. Nagaraj said.