Momina, 23, recharges her phone for Rs 100 every month to use the internet. She uses it carefully to ensure that it lasts her 30 days — sometimes she uses WhatsApp and, rarely, watches videos online. But ask the sanitation worker with a private firm to fill up a form online and she stares back blankly. “It scares me. What if I do something wrong?” says the mother of a three-year-old.
With nursery admission guidelines and forms for general category applicants in private schools already out, parents under the economically weaker section (EWS) and disadvantaged groups are a worried lot. Neither guidelines nor forms for the category have been declared yet and parents are running from one private school to another for clarity on how they can get their child admitted.
The government has declared that the centralised process will be online like last year. Forms will have to be filled and submitted online and draw of lots, depending on the distance of the applicant’s home from the school, will also happen online.
For parents like Momina, the process anything but easy. “Aap jaise log toh aaraam se form bhar lenge, lekin aapko zaroorat nahi. Jinko zaroorat hai, unko ye online zyada samajh nahi aata. (People like you can fill forms easily, but you don’t need to. The ones who do, don’t understand the online world well). We fear our child will be left behind,” she said.
The government had moved to a system of centralised online admission following complaints from parents that schools turned them away, and refused application forms. Gangs that would secure admission under the category for ineligible applicants were also busted in the past few years. But while the online process was introduced to help these parents have easy access to admission in private schools, the lack of knowledge of the internet has become a roadblock.
According to the government’s affidavits in the Delhi High Court, while 31,000 children took admission in private schools in the city under the EWS quota in the 2015-16 session, the number dropped to 19,000 in 2016-17. In 2017-18, this number was around 20,000. The Delhi government, expected to come out with guidelines and forms for the EWS category in the second week of January, claims that the online system has given parents more access.
“Till the old system was in place, parents were turned away from school gates. It would take a parent around 20 days to get forms from 10 schools. The parents who apply for admission under the category are more aware and can negotiate the online space. There are cyber cafes where parents can fill up forms. They can also go to the MLA offices for help,” said Atishi Marlena, advisor to the education minister.
Marlena said many parents preferred to get their children admitted only in the top 100 schools. “In many cases, parents prefer sending their children to neighbourhood government schools if their child does not get admission in the school of their choice. This is a reasons behind seats going vacant,” she said.