Mumbai girl wants to be a doctor but can't find a school

13-year-old Aiman Abdullah Shaikh is among several students in the city to have dropped out because her BMC school has classes only up to Class VIII

She is a little shy, but ask her about what she wants to be when she grows up and 13-year-old Aiman Abdullah Shaikh is quick to say ‘doctor’. Yet, the one thing that is essential for her dream to come true a good education has been stalled.

Also read: A day-long survey in Maharashtra to find out-of-school children

Aiman Shaikh (in black) talks to surveyors from Hansraj Morarji School at her Juhu Gully house. Pic/Shadab Khan
Aiman Shaikh (in black) talks to surveyors from Hansraj Morarji School at her Juhu Gully house. Pic/Shadab Khan

Despite having done well in the Class IV scholarship examination held by the state government, Shaikh had to drop out of school this year. “I studied at Andheri’s Cama Road Municipal School until Class VIII. However, I had to drop out since the school has classes only up till standard VIII.

I have been trying for admission at a private Andheri school for four years, but they keep telling me it is not possible since all their seats are full,” she says, and adds after a pause, “They all want money.” Shaikh, who lives in Juhu Gully, (a slum pocket near Andheri railway station), is among thousands of children who contribute to the state’s high school dropout percentage every year.

Now, the state is making efforts to ensure that she, and others like her, get a better chance at education.

A survey as a start
Earlier this week, the state government commissioned a survey to identify children in the 6-14 age group who had either dropped out of school, or never had formal education. And, within 15 days of the end of the survey, the government hopes to have them enrolled in schools and completing their education.

To this end, on Saturday morning, Amresh Kumar and Mohandas K Poojary teachers at Andheri’s Hansraj Morarji School entered Juhu gully, a predominantly Muslim slum settlement. As they walked through its three-foot wide lanes, avoiding its open gutters, the two were initially told the residents understood the importance of education, and therefore, they’d fail to find dropouts.

However, further down the gully, they met 13-year-old Simon Potraj and his father Krishna Potraj. Simon, they found, like Shaikh was also a student at Cama Municipal School till Class VIII, after which he did not get admission in any private school due to lack of seats.

“This seems to be the escape mechanism that many private schools use to deny admission to students from underprivileged backgrounds,” says his father.

Nine out of 8,126
The survey questions included the name of the child, date of birth, last school attended, religion, parents livelihood and, reason for the dropout. In the nearly six hours that Poojary and Hansraj spent at Juhu gully, they found nine children who had left school.

The numbers are part of a larger figure. In the Mumbai region, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation conducted surveys in its own schools on Saturday, and found that 8,126 students had dropped out. Of these, 4,480 were boys and 3,646 were girls.

They also met nine-year-old Nasri Abdulla Latif Shaikh, who had to drop out after Class III because her mother found it tough to drop her and pick her up from the Jogeshwari school.

Nasri’s parents say they have tried to get her admitted to a nearby municipal school, but in the absence of a transfer certificate her mother says the old school has held it back as they don't want her to move she has lost a year.

But, says P R Pawar, deputy director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, according to RTE, a child can be admitted to any school despite not having a transfer certificate. “The student doesn’t even need to carry an age proof,” he adds.

On Saturday, the forms will be collected from across the city and sent to the municipal commissioner. On Sunday, the forms for the entire district will be sent to the collector. On Monday, collated data from Mumbai district will be sent to the state government.

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