An allegedly erroneous decimal point on the online portal facilitating admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) Act may have led to four children losing out on school enrollment this academic year. Four children from a Kurla slum have lost their chance to avail free education in a reputed school under the Right to Education (RTE) Act due to an alleged fault in the location map embedded on the application portal, according to parents of the children.
While applying for admission for their wards in February this year, the parents said, they could see only three schools around their address on the portal. “All the schools — two in Kurla West and one in Grant Road area — were within 2 km from our address,” said Shabnam Azad Sheikh, who had sought admission for her daughter Alina to Class I.
It was only when the children were allotted seats in the Grant Road school in the fifth round that the parents realised the actual distance was above 15 km. On the portal as well as the admission form, the distance between the school and the children’s addresses was less than 1.5 km, said Shabnam. The Indian Express has accessed the admission forms of the children, where the 15.9-km distance between the school and the Kurla slum is mentioned as 1.46 km.
With the school refusing to admit the students owing to the distance, the parents have lodged a complaint with B B Chavan, Deputy Director of Education (DDE), Mumbai.
Education officials, however, said this was the first time they had come across such a case and said either the parents had filled the address wrong or there was a fault in the Google map feed of the portal.
“The parents are not only required to fill their address but also pin the exact address on the map. If they don’t pin the correct location, the options shown to them will be different,” said Mahesh Palkar, Education Officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). He, however, did not rule out the possibility of a fault in the Google maps.
The Indian Express approached Google India for a comment but no response was received till going to press.
According to the RTE Act, 25 per cent seats in private and unaided schools are reserved for children from the economically weaker sections. In Mumbai, the admission process for this quota is conducted by the BMC and through an online portal. The state education department, which oversees the process, has also set up help centres to facilitate the application process for uneducated parents. The parents in this case had filled the application forms for their wards through one such centre in Dharavi.
After filling the address and pinning it on the map, the parents only have to choose a school from within the options provided to them. They do not need to fill in the distance between the chosen schools and their residence. Even as the confusion over the matter continues, the Kurla parents are afraid their children now don’t stand a chance to avail the quota.
This was Shabnam’s third and last attempt at securing a seat for her five-year-old daughter under the RTE Act — she started in 2015 when Alina was eligible for admission to junior KG. Similar is the story for the three other children — Mustafa Sheikh Jamil, Ayesha Farukh Qureshi and Sumaila Javed Khan.
For the families of the four children, their struggle in the last three years has only led to disappointments. “We are utterly disappointed in the entire system. For three years of patience, we have only been let down,” said Kasiya, Mustafa’s mother. She said she could not afford to send her child to a private school on the meagre wages earned by her hawker husband. “I thought my son had a chance to change his fate and get proper education but maybe he is not destined for it,” she said. “On the government portal, we can see vacancies in the other two schools that we were not allotted. We will request the deputy director of education to allot our children seats in those schools,” said Sana, mother of Sumaila.
Chavan said the department was planning a sixth round for all the children who were left out this year. “However, there is no guarantee that these children will be allotted seats as it is a lottery,” he said.
Instead of pinning their hopes on the sixth round, the parents are now planning to enrol their children in municipal schools. “We have no other option,” said Kasiya.