Each year different parents have to undergo a harrowing time trying to get their children admitted to nursery schools. What should have been a noble activity of being the first step in a child's life of formal education, nursery schools have become dens of corruption and opportunity to make money, any which way.
Setting up a nursery school is very easy and does not require too many formalities, as does a school which offers education right till senior secondary level. In all cases, the demand for admissions exceeds the number of seats available. The problem is further compounded by the fact that parents try and seek a school near their place of residence and therefore very often, there is a skewed demand for seats in some schools over others.
But with overall demand for seats being high, school managements are fully exploiting this situation to make extra money. With extra media attention during school admission time, schools deploy a network of agents who act on behalf of school managements and negotiate as front men for schools. They are the ones who reach out to potential parents with an assurance of admission due to an inside contact .
Written test and Interview
Many schools use a written test as a parameter for selection. This is just an excuse. Imagine a child around four years of age being made to undergo a test and one where there is no reference point or monitoring! These are mere formalities, with the real reason being to meet the parents. The test is followed by an Interview with the parents.
The nursery schools use the interview system to decide on which children to accept and this is usually a pretext to meet the parents and gauge which parents are better placed to offer money and then use the agents to negotiate with them. Schools also give a lot of weightage to parents who are in important government positions or critical departments like the police etc., in the hope that someday these connections might help the management in some way.
Imagine the future of the poor child is decided by the ability of a parent to pay. The parents in turn are helpless and desperate to pay for their child's admission to a good school and often suffer from guilt if they are unable to pay for the child's admission.
The test is also a harrowing time for the child itself. The poor child is made to wake up early in the morning and made to wait at the school gates for a long time in a queue. By the time the actual test is announced, the child has already become restless and irritable. Many times, the child refuses to take any test and the parents are left pleading with the teachers for another chance. During this period, very few schools offer little by way of refreshments or facilities, either for the parent or for the child.
This is very unfortunate but true and is happening in all cities and towns of Haryana. Ask any parent who has had to go through the admission process to a nursery class and they will narrate the terrible experience they have had at the hands of the management.
Given the demand and supply situation, the school managements continue to arrogantly demand money from parents post admission, on some pretext or the other. The parents unfortunately are in no position to question or argue with the school management as all parents are vulnerable to ill treatment that may be meted out to their child in school.
Withholding of fees
There is another major issue that parents face during nursery school admissions in Haryana. Given that there are so many children trying for so few seats, parents like to insure their chances by applying in multiple schools at the same time. The school managements are aware of this fact and so once they confirm the child's admission, they immediately demand money, so that the parents don't go to another school.
However, in cases where the parents have got their child's admission confirmed in more than one school, often pay up in more than one school and then later decide which school is more preferred. To dissuade parents from this practice, many schools withhold the entire sum or a part of it, under the garb of penalty.
Many parents have to go through a lot of harassment at the hands of the school management before they are able to get the refund amount released, even if it is only a partial amount. This practice is both unfair and illegal but school managements have been brazenly flouting all admission norms laid out by the government.
Misuse of reserved seats
In cases where the school has been granted land at subsidised rates by the state, the schools have an obligation to offer 10% seats for the children belonging to the economically weaker sections. Most managements have flouted these rules and have gone ahead and offered these seats to parents who are willing to pay extra.
Then again, managements have quota wherein they use their discretion to offer a certain number of seats to certain select people, as per their choice. This usually is another excuse for collecting a form of capitation fee.
It does not end here. It's only the beginning. After this starts the process of school uniforms, books, etc. and the school insists that they be procured from only the designated source and needless to say, the school earns from that end, as well.
While all nursery schools are very demanding of the child and parents, they are found wanting when it comes recruiting and compensating teachers. Most schools cut corners and try and recruit the teachers willing to work for the lowest pay often at the cost of quality. Many schools have also been known to take a refund in cash after paying the teacher the salary by cheque.
The problem is that the state government has not done much to curb malpractices mentioned above in schools and this has only emboldened newer schools to operate in a similar fashion. All at the cost of the innocent child and his or her hapless parents.
There are so many malpractices happening in Haryana today under the Hooda administration that one often wonders if we have a government, at all. If the racket in nursery admission is allowed to be carried any longer, the state will never be able to establish a clean and efficient education system, one that Naya Haryana so desperately will need.