The case of ‘missing’ Class 11 students | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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The case of ‘missing’ Class 11 students

Oct 02, 2022 11:54 PM IST

Several day and night schools have noticed a higher number of students dropping out of Mumbai schools this year, either due to financial strain or their family’s decision to shift base to another city/state post the pandemic

Mumbai: Twenty-year-old Girish Parmar is one of the 3.55 lakh students in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) who cleared their Class 10 (SSC) exams this year. While others from his batch sought admission to first year junior college (FYJC-Class 11), Girish has had no choice but to drop out of the education system and pick up a job to sustain himself and his mother economically. Parmar cleared his SSC from a night school in Dharavi.

Mumbai, India - September 29, 2022: An evening class in session at BMC-run Modern Night School, at Mumbai Central, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, September 2022. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande) (HT PHOTO)
Mumbai, India - September 29, 2022: An evening class in session at BMC-run Modern Night School, at Mumbai Central, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, September 2022. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande) (HT PHOTO)

“We lost my father to Covid in 2020, after which the burden of earning a living is on my shoulders. At my age I should technically be studying for final year BCom, but due to my financial situation I’ve only managed to clear SSC as of now. However, I plan to earn and save enough over the next couple of years to be able to continue working and studying alongside and eventually find a job as a banker,” said Parmar, a resident of Kumbharwada, Dharavi.

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Seventeen-year-old Malti Kumar is in a similar situation. After completing her Class 10 from Modern High School, Mumbai Central, she has decided to keep her dream of further education on hold. Unable to afford the rent in Tardeo where they lived for seven years, the mother-daughter duo moved to Mahim in December 2020. “I continued my education online. But at present we are struggling to make ends meet, and therefore I have decided to temporarily discontinue my schooling,” said Malti, who currently lives in the slums close to Mahim railway station. She helps her mother sell kurtas at a local store to earn a living.

Parmar and Malti are some of the names ‘missing’ from FYJC-Class11 classrooms this year, a fact that is reflected in admission figures. Of the 3.78 lakh seats in MMR that were up for grabs in FYJC admissions this year, over 1.79 lakh seats have remained vacant despite the authorities conducting ten rounds of admissions, the highest since 2017. In the past six years, the highest seat vacancy was recorded in 2020 when the pandemic forced many people to migrate to their respective hometowns, leaving 96,000 seats vacant in FYJC courses. This year, seat vacancy in FYJC is nearly double that, and stands at over 47%.

Several day and night schools have noticed a higher number of students dropping out of Mumbai schools this year, either due to financial strain or their family’s decision to shift base to another city/state post the pandemic. “The overall registrations have reduced over the past three years, which is a trend we have noticed since the pandemic. Many students from rural areas are choosing to continue studying there and not moving back to cities like Mumbai,” said Mahesh Palkar, state director of education (secondary and higher secondary). He added that barely a few thousand applications are pending for admissions, so the authorities have decided to conduct a few more rounds of seat allotment until October 15 this year.

“Once the pending applicants are allotted seats, we will close admissions. The high seat vacancy is a concern but we cannot force students to come to city colleges, especially when many families have complained that they cannot afford the rent in big cities,” added Palkar.

The pandemic hit several sectors hard in 2020, forcing many from the working class to shift base back to their hometowns. While several managed to come back to the cities in search of jobs, many are still struggling to make ends meet. Several NGOs have worked on providing employment or financial aid to needy families to ensure that children do not bear the brunt of the situation. While reverse migration could be one reason for this big drop in FYJC admissions, experts feel the bigger concern could be mass dropouts.

“Some students might have migrated back to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, but our experience in this field tells us that due to the lack of opportunities in some states, people tend to move to cities like Mumbai and once here, they find every possible means to ensure that they stay back,” said Kishor Bhamre, head of the Pratham Center for Vulnerable Children.

Bhamre added that while a very small number of children might have moved to their hometowns and are continuing their education there, the fact that seat vacancy in FYJC is the highest ever could mean more drop-outs. “The concern is that more students could have dropped out of education altogether, either due to financial strain or family pressure. The government should seriously study the situation and ensure that students are brought back into the education system before it is too late,” he said.

Karuna Kadam, 42, takes pride in the fact that she completed her SSC exams alongside her daughter Saavli this year. However, financial constraints have forced them to make a big decision—either Karuna or Saavli can continue studying, and single mother Karuna has ensured that Saavli gets to pursue her dreams.

“I could not afford the fees, but the principal of the school ensured that Saavli’s fees are taken care of so she can continue studying. I hope I can find a job soon and then resume my education as well. I want to be able to converse in English,” said Karuna, who resides in Mahim with her brother and mother.

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