With her parents passing away in an accident six years ago, Rupali Rathod (16) had to assume the role of guardian to her two younger brothers. Which is why the teenager, who works as a domestic help, had to run from pillar to post to secure the admission of her sibling Laxman (8) in a PMC school in Kothrud. The institute authorities allegedly turned them down initially, as the boy didn’t have a birth certificate.
Fed up of the callousness, Rupali, along with another single parent whose daughter was also allegedly denied admission by the same school on the same grounds, eventually knocked on the doors of Kothrud police.
Last resort: Laxman Rathod and Renuka Joshi with their guardians outside Kothrud police station
“We are orphans, as our parents died in a mishap in 2007. Since then, I started working as domestic help in various parts of Kothrud and am trying to bring up my younger brothers, who are 8 and 11,” said Rupali.
She added, “Till a few months earlier, we used to live in another part of Kothrud, and Laxman was going to a school in the neighbourhood, though he was not in the institute’s records because of not having a birth certificate. The school authorities allowed him to sit in std I, but did not let him take the examinations at the end of the year.”
The kids recently shifted to Lokmanya Nagar, off Paud Road. “As the previous school was quite far away from our residence, I decided to enrol him in the Annasaheb Patil Primary School of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), which is just a few minutes away from our residence.”
So, Rupali accompanied Laxman to the school and asked the administration to allow him to sit in the school. However, the establishment asked for Laxman’s birth and school leaving certificates. “I told them that since our parents’ death, our lives have became topsy-turvy and that we would not be able to produce the certificates,” she said.
However, the school authorities said without the birth certificate they couldn’t enrol Laxman, and sent him home every time he came to the school.
“He used to return home crying and tell me that the institute wants his birth certificate. He once told me that some people from the school even told him that he looks abnormal and bigger than his said age,” Rupali alleged.
The teenager then accompanied another woman, whose daughter was also denied admission by the school, and the two kids, to the school and again requested the authorities to grant them admission. However, this time too the appeal was denied.
Dejected, Rupali decided to approach the cops to lodge a complaint against the school authorities. After the Kothrud police station intervened, the institute management agreed to admit both kids.
Shama Joshi, a single mother who works as a domestic help in the vicinity, complained that her daughter Renuka was treated with the same callousness by the school.
“As we are poor, the system has neglected us. People from the school came to our slums and insisted we enrol the children there. However, when we took our kids to the school, they sent them back.”
When MiD DAY contacted LS Modve, the headmistress of Annasaheb Patil School, she refuted the claims of the kids’ guardians. She maintained that the children would be admitted as soon as possible, and if someone had indeed sent them back, action would be taken.
“I have received a complaint about the matter, and the school authorities have been reprimanded and asked not to deny admission over this issue,” said Shivaji Daundkar, head of PMC’s education board. “We have notified all the schools to give admission to children without any hitched, and asked them not to demand birth certificates in case the parents didn’t have them,” he said.
Daundkar added that the headmistress of the school has been asked to ascertain who had sent the children home.