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Admission season is harassment time for Mumbai schools

Mumbai city news: After one corporator was refused entry into a Kandivli school, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which is in charge of primary school education in the city, said last week that it will ask schools to treat the elected representatives with ‘respect’.

mumbai Updated: Jul 05, 2017 09:19 IST
Manoj R Nair
When demands are not fulfilled, schools are harassed.
When demands are not fulfilled, schools are harassed.(HT)

Schools in Mumbai are angry with the municipal corporation’s plan that asks the institutions to help corporators who recommend students for seats.

After one corporator was refused entry into a Kandivli school, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which is in charge of primary school education in the city, said last week that it will ask schools to treat the elected representatives with ‘respect’.

The end of the admission season in schools – usually between May and July – is the time when institutions face threats and violence from local politicians.

A few years ago, members of a political party threatened to vandalise a Santacruz school after the principal refused to allot seats to students recommended by him. The principal, who had copies of letters from the politician recommending students for kindergarten admissions, filed a complaint with the police.

A corporator threatened a school in Bhandup for refusing seats to two students recommended by him.

Corporators said this is social work, but schools do not agree. “They (corporators) say they are doing social work but it is not always so; some of them take money from parents after ensuring them a seat in a school of their choice,” said the former manager of a school.

When the demands are not fulfilled, schools are harassed. A priest who was the manager of a school at Saat Rasta (Jacob Circle) said that the local corporator would demand 30-35 seats – an average government-aided private school in Mumbai has an annual intake of 150-250 students in its kindergarten - for students recommended by him. “He behaved so badly when we refused to give him so many seats. He complained to the (municipal) ward office that the roof that we had put over our parish house was dangerous. Though we argued that the roof was safe, it was demolished,” said the priest.

In other schools, the corporators have interfered in fee disputes between the school and parents of students. “The local corporator would not allow the PTA (Parents Teachers Association) to approve the fee hike though a majority of the members had agreed to an increase,” said a former principal of a school.

Some schools reserve a few seats in anticipation of the demands. “But these are for students recommended by the BMC education department, not politicians. If we have to oblige every corporator, MLA and Shakha Pramukh (branch heads of political parties), we will have no seats left to allot to applicants,” said a Matunga resident who is associated with the management of school.

The use of coercion is largely restricted to private institutions that receive grants from the government – called aided schools. The grants – reimbursement of salaries paid to teachers and some infrastructure grants – is irregular, but that does not stop the politicians from demanding what they think is quid pro quo.

The harassment from politicians, school managements said, is one of the reasons why many institutions are severing their affiliation to the state education board and shifting to national school curriculums. “Apart from the fact that the curriculum is better, there is no pressure from politicians who cannot arm-twist unaided schools. I know one school in Dadar which said that will not allow politicians into their premises because the institution does not take money from the government,” said a member of the managing committee of a Sion school.

Corporators said that they have no option but to approach schools when parents seek their help for school seats. “Children come to us; what do we do?” asked Subhada Gudekar, a corporator and chairperson of the municipal education committee. “What is our use if we cannot help children from poor families to get seats in good schools? What will the public say (about us)?”

Gudekar said that many schools humiliate corporators. “They do not even ask them to sit. We are elected representatives; they have to give us respect.”

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