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'Pay donation to school now, get admission 3 years later'

If you are a parent of a year-old infant who you want to educate in an upscale English medium school, it might be a good idea to give the nappies and bottles a wide berth for a day and make a trip to the school of your choice to make sure they still have place for your infant.

Going by recent developments, it’s only the really early bird that catches the worm, in this case a coveted seat in a school. Sacred Heart School in Varap Gaon on the Kalyan-Murbad Road has started advance booking for admissions to junior KG — for the 2015-16 session. What happened to admissions for 2013-15, you ask? ‘It’s all booked’, you will be told.


Expensive beginning: Davis explained the fee structure and even gave the reporters a tour of the school premises

The school authorities have taken advance booking to an absurd new level, having already closed admissions for junior and senior KG batches for the academic sessions 2013-14 and ’14-15. Admission is being offered on a ‘first come first serve basis,’ sans interview or admission test, but with a hefty donation.


The pamphlet that Davis handed over to the reporters with details of the admission procedure and fee structure

Undercover parents
MiD DAY correspondents posed as parents of a one-year-old to see if a complaint they received from a reader had any basis in fact. They were told that admissions had already completed and closed for the next two academic years. When asked about fees, a school official who introduced himself as Davis handed over a pamphlet. The pamphlet details the fee structure under the heading ‘Sacred Heart School Junior KG Admission Details (2015-16), and says that infants who are aged one as on October 1, 2012, are eligible for admission for two sessions later.


Show me the money: Sacred Heart School on Kalyan-Murbad Road

And it doesn’t end there. Under the fees section, the notice reads, ‘The annual school fee of Rs 48,600 must be paid immediately at the time of admission and is not refundable’: meaning that you must pay up two years in advance.

Asked if the ‘donation’ of Rs 35,000 was negotiable, Davis said, “Donation is not negotiable and one has to pay. It is not even refundable, for parents who may wish to cancel the child’s admission later.” The donation, he insisted, is taken only to maintain the standard of facilities provided by the school, which include 20 odd co-curricular activities. The pamphlet also says that the annual fee, payment of which is compulsory two whole years in advance, is not refundable. Davis, however, told the undercover parents that it was.

State of the art?
The school has 127 teachers and around 2,500 students, from KG to SSC levels. Located on 11acres of land and run by a catholic society, it is equipped with a swimming pool and an indoor gymnasium. The number of students in each class is restricted to 35. Children also have access to a select species of birds.

‘No compromise on donation’

MiD DAY: What are formalities required for admission to Junior KG?
Davis:
The parent will have to buy an admission form and prospectus worth Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 respectively. The school fee is Rs 48,600 and donation fee is Rs 35,000.

MiD DAY: Can we see the school?
Davis: Usually it is not allowed, but I can take you for a round. Our school is on 11 acres of land. We have 20 activities for children, a swimming pool that is cleaned regularly, male and female swimming teachers. We also have species of birds, a big playground and an indoor gymnasium. We offer lessons in music, dance, pottery, skating and several other sports. We have a four-storey building, with classrooms only in three floors. We even have a hospital in our campus for emergencies. We have LCD screens for Stds VIII and IX.

MiD DAY: What would be the total cost, if we plan to admit our child to your school?
Davis: The total cost would amount to Rs 88,600 excluding transport fees. It may go upto Rs 1 lakh.

MiD DAY: Is admission full for this year?
Davis: Yes, admissions for Jr KG is full upto 2014, and we have opened admissions for 2015 now.

MiD DAY: Are the donation fees negotiable?
Davis: No, it cannot be negotiated, it will remain the same.

MiD DAY: My friend’s wife is expecting a child, can they also book for admissions?
Davis: No, that cannot happen. The child needs to be at least one-year-old for advance admission. Our school is 10-years-old and the practice of advance booking started from the third year since our inauguration.

The Other Side 
Albin Anthony, administrative officer of Sacred Heart School, said, “We give preference to siblings and relatives of students. Hence we ask parents not to enlist their kids in playgroup and nursery section, as they can spend the time with their parents and join later on. Out of 200 junior KG students about 135-138 seats go directly to siblings of students. We are running the school with complete devotion. We don’t give admissions on the basis of interview or IQ tests. Nowadays parents send their children to nursery when they are two years old, which is burdening them. 

Experts react
It is ridiculous. This is going to stress out parents and put a lot of pressure on them. Annual admissions should be opened a few months in advance in the same year, and not two years ahead. This is like advance booking for a film. Parents will have to plan pregnancies and childbirth, and other important milestones based on admission dates. This is going to create great upheaval in the entire community. This is rampant commercialisation
Swati Popat, president of NGO Early Childhood Association India 

It is totally wrong if any school is offering admissions so much in advance. The government is appointing a committee comprising collectors and members of the Zilla Parishad, and parents can complain to this body if they are denied admission at entry levels of Junior KG. Every school has to follow the law set down by the Right To Education Act (RTE).
Anil Kale, state Project Director, Maharashtra Prathamik Shikshan Parishad, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Very soon the day may come when couples will have to book their child’s admission on the day they take their marriage vows.
Dr Samir Dalwai, Paediatrician and director of New Horizons Child Development Centre

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