DESPITE GETTING months for preparation to ensure that the admissions for the 25 per cent quota for economically-weaker students are done without a hitch, the State Education Department has still not got its act together.
From delays in announcing the admission schedule to inability to rein in rogue schools that refuse quota admissions despite allotments and now help centres that have turned into “hell centres” for poor parents, the problems seem to be never ending.
For the past several days, a multitude of agencies have been complaining to the education officials about the help centres not helping parents and instead turning them away.Related Article
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Since the entire process of RTE quota admissions is online, including filling forms and uploading documents, the education department has set up help centres in various parts of the city to help parents fill forms online.
However, parents who are often unaware of technology are being turned away from the centres by staffers for reasons such as low Internet connectivity, dysfunctional scanners or even lack of will of staffers to do the job.
“We got so fed up of asking officials at centres to help and getting no for an answer that we finally trained some of our own boys and gave them tablets with which they are now filling forms after scanning documents. Even after complaining to officials, they turn a deaf ear,” alleged Sonali Kunjir of Kagad Kach Patra Kachra Panchayat (KKPKP).
Mukund Kirdat, volunteer of Aam Aadmi Party, too alleged that the help centres are not asking their volunteers to set up parallel centres in different parts of the city.
“We think it is high time the officials took this seriously and gave an extension in the dates for filling forms. Half of the allotted dates were wasted in public holidays and the other half are being wasted by reluctant help centre officials,” he said.
Meanwhile, to check on the status of the help centres, a team of reporters from The Pune Newsline randomly visited a few help centres in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad posing as parents or siblings wishing to fill up forms to gauge the response of centre officials.
In 6 of the 9 centres, the reporters couldn’t fill the forms and the situation was specially bad in Pune city, clearly laying bare the claims of the civic officials who had said that they had opened up 15 centres that were fully functional to help parents.
Vitthalrao Gadgil school, Vishrantwadi, 2pm, Friday
What we saw: No signages of the RTE help centre being present here. All the classrooms were closed and even the gate to the staircase was closed. Two officials later showed up and said the centre was here, but soon left for lunch. They said they were filling forms but since the scanner wasn’t working for last few days, they couldn’t do so now.
Paranjpe Vidyalay, Law College Road, 4.30pm Friday, 11am Saturday
What we saw: On the first visit on Friday, the watchmen asked us to leave saying there was no RTE centre here. The next day, we met some school staff who said the PMC officials had asked to open a centre but the officials never came. The reason given was that there already is a centre set up at a school on JM Road and thus, there is no necessity of a centre on Law College Road.
K. Hambir Rao Moze Vidyalay, Chandan Nagar, 3pm, Friday
What we saw: Four men were sitting at the entrance of the school building who when asked, confirmed that it was the RTE help centre. However, they asked us to go to a cyber cafe to fill forms explaining that the entire process was online. When we took out a camera, he called the computer operator and said he wasn’t the authorised person. Asked why people were being sent away, the computer operator denied it and claimed everything was in working condition. Asked to show us the form-filling process, we found that all computers and scanners had been disconnected.
Rajshri Shahu Maharaj Prathamik Vidyalaya, Gandhi Chowk, Mundhwa 11:00 am, Saturday
What we saw: A large hoarding was put up on the school premises to guide people on the process but finding the booth to fill the form was a difficult process and school staffers didn’t help either. Although the centre opens at 10 am, the person arrived at 11.15 am. He claimed all the facilities were present at this school to fill the forms.
Pandit Deendayal Vidyalay near Paud Phata, 11.30am, Saturday
What we saw: A board at entrance directed us towards the help centre. The help centre had instruction pamphlets and even guidelines pasted on its walls. However, they did not have a scanner and were asking parents to get the documents scanned on a pen drive. A parent said, “My husband has gone to get it done at a cyber cafe nearby.” Although officials were filling forms, they were advising people to fill forms at cyber cafe to save time.
Dhyan Sadhana English Medium School, Sinhagad Road, 12.30pm, Saturday
What we saw: Big banners hung by political candidates greeted us. The RTE forms were filled by the operator but he was on leave. “I got the form filled in a cyber cafe for Rs100. I have just come to verify the submission of forms. It is more convenient than waiting in a queue here,” said a parent.
Sachin Kale, the supervisor of the centre, said, “The centre was closed since it’s a holiday for the operator but the office remains open. The process is being done properly and we are in touch with the parents for any assistance needed. Since there is only one person working, we are asking parents to get scanned copies of documents.”
Andhra School, situated near Central Hotel, J M Road, 1:15 pm, Friday
What we saw: Signages were present on the RTE process. The watchmen informed us that the RTE booth is on the 1st floor of the building. There was only one person that is in charge of the process and despite it being the lunch hour, he was busy filling forms. The parents only need to get the required documents and the person in-charge fills the form, scans the documents and prints the form as a proof to the parents. It takes about half an hour to finish this whole procedure.
Sadhana English Medium School, Hadapsar, 12 pm, Saturday
What we saw: No hoarding or signages were present to guide where RTE centre was located. On entering the school office, a man informed us that RTE form filling process is done here. Even as many parents were present, the man only saw their documents and told them to fill the online form at a cyber cafe. He added that there is no need to come back to school and show the printouts. As we saw a computer, a scanner and asked why he couldn’t fill the form here, he said the internet connection is very slow.
One of the parents, Sumedh Alhat, who had filled the form at a cyber cafe was here to show its copy but was told to go back as the form was not filled properly. “ It is very hectic and I have very little tech knowledge but I am still doing it for my daughter’s admission,” he said.
Another parent, Santosh Tikole added, “I had come here to fill the online form for my child but after coming here, the man present in the office only saw my documents and told me to go to a cyber cafe and fill the form.”
Suresh Unchale, in charge of the centre, said forms were filled every day but claimed that only that day, the computer operator had not come on duty.
D Y Patil School, Shahunagar, 1.30 pm, Saturday
What we saw: Signages were in place. Rekha Jadhav, the supervisor, said the school had provided scanners, printers and other facilities. However, the website on which they work has been facing issues which has suspended the process for some time. Till date, the centre has seen 73 forms being filled. “The centre has not seen much crowd,” she said.
SNBP School, Morwadi, 2.00 pm, Saturday
What we saw: Multiple Signages were in place. The RTE centre is functioning out of the hall of the SNBP school with ample seating and standing place for parents. Till date, 119 forms have been filled with the centre being well equipped with scanners, printer and a computer.