On Sale Now: Nursery Seats Meant for Poor @ Rs 1 to 5 Lakh
School principals are under the scanner in a fake nursery admission scam. Time for schools to be rendered powerless?
Nursery admissions are a harrowing time for most parents in Delhi. You make the cut on the basis of where you live, where you went to school, how educated you are and in some cases, your professional qualifications.
The points system was introduced to bring in more objectivity in admissions and to end the “seats for sale” system that had become the accepted norm in Delhi, leaving those unable to pay exorbitant donations (read: bribes) out in the cold.
The 2009 Right to Education Act mandated all private unaided schools to reserve a minimum of 25% of their seats at entry-level classes for children belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS).
Delhi defines EWS as those families that have a household income of less than 1 lakh per annum. There are 40,000 seats reserved for EWS in Delhi.
Delhi has close to 1.25 lakh nursery seats for 1.5 lakh children. This disparity leads to desperate times for those who fail to make the cut under the much debated points system, which was originally designed to bring transparency in admissions and end traumatic interviews for toddlers.
Nexus Between Schools-Government-Touts
But it has not been completely successful in eliminating corruption, as a recent investigation by the Delhi Police proves. As per a June 17 report in The Times of India, senior school authorities, government officials in the District Magistrate’s office and touts are all under the scanner. Four of whom have been arrested for as many as 300 fake nursery admissions.
The principal of Bal Bharti School, Pitampura has also been examined and her office has been raided.
Modus Operandi Revealed
The modus operandi, as Hindustan Times reports, was not as simple as applying under EWS on behalf of a parent. The gang would present an EWS certificate with fictitious names, apply for several seats in several schools. With the seats blocked, they would rope in desperate parents who had failed to make the cut under the points system. The parents would then apply at the DM’s office for a change in name, age and other details. All this at a cost of Rs 1 to 5 lakh.
Currently, the parent who is applying for admission under EWS has to visit the preferred school and submit an application form. The school is supposed to inform the student about the date of lottery that decides whether the child has got admission or not.
Not Yet a Foolproof System
Clearly, the system for applying for a nursery school seat under the EWS reservation is not foolproof.
1. A school that is biased against accepting students who are economically poor may refuse to give the parent an application form
2. If the parent is able to submit a form with the help of an NGO, the school in question may refuse to give them a receipt of acknowledgement
3. Even if the parent is able to get this far, the school may refuse to tell the parent the date of lottery.
4. How fair or random is the lottery? The process is not videotaped and in the absence of monitoring by any government official, there is no telling how fair the lottery system is.
How Will the Loopholes be Plugged?
All of the above allows opportunity for fraud, says Anurag Kundu who leads community engagement and advocacy for ‘Indus Action’, an NGO that focuses on securing quality education for students from economically weaker sections (EWS).
Reform is waiting to happen in the Centralized Lottery System. A parent will come into a government office and submit a list of preferred schools. The govt will then upload the data on a website. A software will take all factors into consideration and randomly allot seats, removing all interference from all parties.
– Anurag Kundu, Lead, Community Engagement & Advocacy
Why Can’t Delhi Follow the Others?
Karnataka, Rajasthan and Maharashtra to some extent have been able to successfully implement the centralized lottery system. Speaking to The Quint, the Founder of the Central Square Foundation, a fund focused on improving education for low-income children, Ashish Dhawan says “we need to take the power away the schools”.
The government also needs to create a lot more awareness, because we see only the “creamy layer” taking advantage of this reservation.
– Ashish Dhawan, Founder & CEO, Central Square Foundation
The latest revelations on fake nursery admissions has revealed the nexus between government officials, school authorities and touts.
The Delhi Police believes it is on the verge of busting a nexus that comprises cash-rich touts, government officials that provide EWS certificates with fictitious names and school authorities that overlook affidavits to change names and other details after money has exchanged hands. But policy influencers believe implementation of the Centralised Lottery System can further plug the loophole.
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