I have been watching, with utter dismay and deep concern, the plight of parents running from pillar to post to get their children admitted to nursery in a schools across Delhi, India’s capital city. The nursery admission saga has been going on for quite some time in this city with a wide range of unlikely protagonists in the fray: school authorities, state government, parent’s associations, activists and even the judicial system. And if that is not enough parents now resort to every trick in the bag: pleas, threats and the now sated string pulling!

Education is a a constitutional right for each and every child and yet good educations seems elusive. Over the years a surreptitious and complex caste system has evolved within the society of schools. And sadly education which should be a level playing field has now transformed itself into yet another social status definer with the better one coming at a higher price. A peek into any of the high caste one is sufficient to prove this: some schools today look more like luxury resorts than places of learning. The lower ones a.k.a government schools on the other hand defy all description. In the middle lie a plethora of schools that have mushroomed over the years as education made a subtle shift from places of learning to commercial enterprises, where quality is often sacrificed.

I was horrified when a young nephew ,who is in one of the leading schools in Delhi came for help with is French classes,a subject offered by many leading schools. His copy book was full of mistakes and the pronunciation he had been taught seemed Spanish and not French! The child would have been better off learning Sanskrit or any other Indian language. I brought this fact to the attention of his parents in the hope that they would take it up with the school, but a the look of alarm on their faces reminded me of the long haul it had been for them to get this child admitted into this prestigious school. They were in no mood to rock the boat.

I have always been a strong proponent of the common school system. A school in the neighborhood a child could walk to, a school where children from all walks of life would learn together and celebrate difference, a school where the only admission criterion would be your place of residence. No child should be subjected to rejection at an early age which is what is happening today as parents run from one school to another dragging little 3 years old who are made to go through incomprehensible interviews and complex admission procedures. They may not be able to express themselves but imagine what they feel as they listen to their parents vent their feelings. To me this is just another form of child abuse.

A self respecting society should ensure that this does not happen.

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