Mumbai: Help centres for RTE quota admission proving unhelpful

The online submission of documents for admission under Right to Education (RTE) Act is expected to be completed by March 13. However, barely 10 days away from the deadline, complaints have been pouring in from parents about the process.

Parents claim they were waiting outside the Chembur help centre for an hour, only to be told that there was no staff to help them
Parents claim they were waiting outside the Chembur help centre for an hour, only to be told that there was no staff to help them

The education department of the BMC has set up 24 help centres to help parents fill up forms, but many centres have untrained or no staff, while others are refusing to accept more than 10 forms a day.

“We were waiting outside the help centre in Chembur for an hour, only to be told that there is no staff present to help us. We wanted to fill in the forms as soon as possible as authorities then demand documents randomly, so there is no use waiting to complete the work till the last minute,” said Raksha Pathare, mother of one of the applicants.

Many parents had come to the help centre to verify the age criteria and get clarity on the documents required to be eligible for the 25 per cent RTE quota in schools. “If we visit the BMC office, they tell us to go to a help centre, which is not functional. Where are we supposed to go then?” asked Pathare.

However, when mid-day enquired about the lack of staff at the Chembur help centre, BMC education officer Shambhavi Jogi insisted that all help centres are functional. “Aside from the help centres, we have also put up 31 helpdesks across the city for parents.

These helpdesks will also accept forms and help clear any doubts that parents may have,” she said, adding that the deadline for accepting applications will be pushed forward in case more applications are expected to be uploaded on the website.

Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti (ASBS) that has been following the RTE admission process since last year is disappointed with the attitude of the education department officials. “RTE admissions have to be advertised months in advance to make sure that every eligible applicant is made aware of it.

This year there were hardly one or two advertisements in newspapers. Unfortunately, many parents are still unaware of the process, and those who are running to help centres are being shunned by their under trained staff,” said K Narayan, an activist from ASBS.

Not just the process, but even the number of seats is causing confusion. Last year, there were 7,000-odd seats in 313 schools for RTE quota admissions. This year, officials were surprised that there are 10,442 seats available, even though the number of schools has gone down to 280. “We have asked our technology partner to re-check the figure; we don’t want the software to repeat seats from the same school,” said Jogi.

RTE admissions are only at the entry level (depending on the school, it can either be kindergarten or Std I) and the education department is now checking if the software has accepted both kindergarten and Std I seats for the process. “We are doing everything to avoid any form of confusion once the seats are allotted,” she added.

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