Admissions in the times of right to education

Many thought I was mad when I was not jubilant at the passage of the Right to Education Bill and particularly at its absurd provision for compensating private schools for admission of children under the 25% quota which has been compared to school vouchers, whereby parents may "send" their children in any school, private or public. An Act that makes quality education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 cannot truly come into effect if every school in the country state run or private is of equal quality! That is sadly not the case and we have schools that cover a large spectrum from abysmal to outrageously flamboyant. And though in theory every child can access the lavishest of schools, reality is quite the opposite.

First and foremost the poorest of the poor can never aspire to the 25% reservation as they are unaware of this option, often do not have the papers required and are not savvy to the tricks needed to get the required points to get their child admitted. The procedure is complex and keeping in mind the paucity of seats it is quite a nightmare to get your child in a good school. And that goes not only for the 25% poor kids but for any child in our city.

Nursery admissions are a theatre of the absurd. The logical option of the neighborhood school that would worked like a dream if state run schools were centres of excellence, has become a joke. The solution conjured was a point system and a lottery. Now the maximum points you can get is 100 and divided as follows: 70 points if you live within 8km (though I know of a child who was rejected though he lives within 3km), 20 points if you have a sibling, 5 points if you are an alumni, 5 for girls, 5 for employee children. There was a transfer point that has been quashed following an appeal in Court. hence the admissions process which was to be completed by February 28th is now to be redone and the new date is March 15th.

Now hold your breath: in some schools there are 2000 applicants for 20 seats! So parents have to admit children in many schools to hope for a seat. So in a land where quality education is a constitutional right, getting your child in school is an absolute nightmare.

Parents have to take days off from work to complete procedures, stand in unending queues, keep fingers and toes crossed when lots are drawn, bite their nails waiting for second lists and wonder what to do with their child if he has been rejected by all schools. And we are talking of toddlers. They may not be able to say what they feel but they hear everything, see their parent's angst and process it in their own way. I am sure it disturbs and hurts them.

All this makes my blood boil. Admission to a school should be easy and joyful. It would be so if our state ran their schools in a proper way and gave up their reservation and quota addiction and their love for privatisation. All this means that a child born in the wrong family loses all his chances to accede to a bright future.

In a recent interview Arundhati Roy gives some startling figures that should make us think and I quote: To be eligible for the reservation policy, a Scheduled Caste person needs to have completed high school. GovernĀ­ment figures say more than 70 per cent of ScheĀ­duled Caste students drop out before they matriculate. Which means for even low-end government jobs only one in every four Dalits is eligible. I quote this not to defend reservation but to illustrate the fact that those in need do not get and cannot aspire to quality education at all.

It is time that someone did what is needed: make every state run school an enabling space for quality education!