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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

MP school age fraud: Cops visit dropouts, find 40-year-old woman is 13 on paper

Sheopur district police initiative to bring school dropouts back to studies exposes age fudging in at least 600 instances. Police suspect this was done to boost enrollment numbers.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2017 21:00 IST
Shruti Tomar
Shruti Tomar
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
The Right to Education Act, enforced in 2010, was hailed as revolutionary as it promised free access to education for children from all classes.
The Right to Education Act, enforced in 2010, was hailed as revolutionary as it promised free access to education for children from all classes.(HT )

Manju Suman did not know Madhya Pradesh police would come calling because she had not been to school in a while. The “school dropout” was not at home in Sheopur district when police arrived to motivate her to resume studies.

Police did not know Suman has not been in Sheopur, around 425 km north of state capital Bhopal, for years because she moved to Rajasthan after marriage. Police also had no clue that she is 40 years old, and not 13, which is what Sheopur district school education department’s records led them to believe.

Suman is among nearly 600 people noted as “school dropouts” in the district education department records whose ages have been fudged, according to police. The fraud came to light after police recently launched an initiative to bring dropouts from government’s primary and middle schools back to studies.

“Ages were reduced by 10 to 25 years in school documents to show their enrollment,” said a police officer who saw the official records. “We suspect the ages were fudged to boost enrollment numbers under pressure of Right To Education (RTE) Act. Later, the department marked them as dropouts.”

What’s more, police found the school education department had also made Samagra IDs (an identity card the MP government provides for availing of benefits including scholarships) without personal verification.

Sheopur bus conductor Mustafa Khan, 26, was surprised when police told him his Samagra ID too had been made. He was even more surprised when police told him he should start sending his “15-year-old son Mustafa” to school again. “I told the police personnel that my name is Mustafa and my son is just 5 years old.”

Mustafa’s name was in the list of 2,000 dropouts police got from the school education department when they launched their campaign.

Sheopur superintendent of police (SP) Saket Kumar Pandey said, “It’s a major irregularity on the part of the school education department. We have come to know of the dropout students, 30% are either in jobs, married or have shifted to other cities.”

During their campaign, police found many of the dropouts were in their late twenties and some even in their forties and not as young as records showed. Many were not even aware that their ages had been fudged and they had been enrolled in schools, and declared dropouts later.

Asked about Sheopur police findings, Madhya Pradesh minister of state for school education, Deepak Joshi, told HT, “There must be a confusion in the list. I will ask senior officers of the department to inquire into the matter.”

What could have possibly led to age fudging

According to RTE, enrollment of all children in 5-14 years age group is compulsory. Teachers at block and panchayat level ensure it. In MP, out of school children (dropouts) are identified and registered on the Samagra portal. The portal facilitates a mechanism to ensure all dropouts are brought to the mainstream. Data from various modules of the portal is being collated to generate reports for the state government to implement the RTE Act.

MP Teachers’ Association general secretary, Ashutosh Pandey, said, “Under RTE, 25% seats are reserved in all private schools for poor students. Most students take admission in private schools and this increases the pressure on government school teachers as they do not get students for enrollment. Such forgery is quite possible across the state because of the pressure.”

A senior government official who did not want to be named said, “The school education department gives the contract of making lists of dropouts to NGOs. Many also get a substantial amount of funds to bring dropouts back to school through rehabilitation programmes. There is a possibility of numbers being manipulated in such lists.”

First Published: Jun 28, 2017 20:57 IST

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