Nearly 61,000 students have shifted from private schools to government-run primary schools in Gujarat this year — the highest since 2014 — with more enrollment expected as admission process is open till August 31.
The rush is such that in schools run by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) MLAs have sent recommendation letters for some children. The Indian Express has accessed copies of letters by BJP MLAs Vallabh Kakadiya and Jagdish Patel, and Congress MLAs Himmatsinh Patel and Gyasuddin Sheikh.
Kakadiya from Thakkarbapanagar assembly constituency has recommended admissions for six children from his constituency whose names are on waiting list in different classes to AMC-run Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sankul, while Jagdish Patel has recommended for one child from his constituency, Amraiwadi. Shaikh has sent recommendations for 17 children from his constituency of Dariapur.
Kakadiya says, “People paying high fees in private schools are shifting their wards to municipal schools. There is no vacant seat in this particular English medium school with a very good building and I’ve to decline requests from parents. Such schools should be opened in every area.”
As on July 31,2021, nearly 61,000 students have taken admission in over 32,000 government and municipal corporation-run primary schools across the state, following several initiatives since 2014 such as opening English medium schools with pre-primary classes.
Shaikh has sought admissions for children from junior kindergarten to Class 2 in Kalupur Public School. “One reason for so many parents wanting to get their children admitted to this school is its English medium and second the financial crisis during the Covid pandemic. This is the case across the state and it will increase in coming years,” said Shaikh.
Congress MLA from Bapunagar Himmatsinh Patel and Jamnagar BJP mayor Binaben Kothari also have recommended children to government schools.
AMC schools, where the number in the waiting list has crossed 200, have recorded the highest shift among 33 districts and eight municipal corporations with nearly 4,500 students shifting from private schools.
Elated over the response for admissions, AMC school board authorities are working out on how to accommodate more students along with these “recommended” children.
“Earlier, recommendation letters were given for admission to private schools from our schools. This is the first time students have come with letters from MLAs and councillors to municipal schools. In addition to these letters, I have received more than 50 calls for from MLAs and councillors for admissions,” said AMC School Board chairman DJ Tomar.
As per the state education department records, from academic session 2014-15 till 2021-22, barring the year 2020-21 when the data was not compiled amid lockdown, around 3,67,000 students have shifted from private schools to government-run primary schools in Gujarat.
In 2014-’15, a shift of nearly 45,000 students was reported while in 2019-’20, this was 50,228 which has reached over 61000, this year.
Citing reasons as improved quality, infrastructure and teachers in government schools, Education Minister Bhupendra-sinh Chudasama told The Indian Express, “During the pandemic, people have observed that despite no education in private schools, they had to pay huge fee, while quality education was offered to government school students free of cost through various mediums. Then why to pay more.”
Denying that the crumbling finances of parents during the pandemic was the reason behind the shift, Chudasama said, “I do not agree as this has been the trend (shift from private to government schools) since 2015.”
In addition to the 4,500 students shifted from private schools, AMC schools have recorded nearly 20,000 fresh admissions in Class 1 in its 453 schools against 18,000 admissions on August 31, 2020. Last year, Surat municipal schools had also recorded a steep rise in admissions in Classes 2 to 8, with many diamond workers shifting their children from private to SMC schools.
For the academic session 2021-’22, more than 8,800 students were in the waiting list who were given admission with addition of second section in several schools. With admissions still continuing, nearly 3,500 children on the waiting list after adding second section in classes, mainly for Class 1 in non-English medium schools and junior KG in English medium schools.
Isanpur Public School number 2 has a waiting of over 200 applications after the addition of second section. Similar is the case with Kalupur Public School with a waiting list of 150 after two sections, Bapunagar Urdu medium school with 139, Chandola Urdu medium with 136 and Danilimda Public School with 112 and Isanpur Gujarati school with 102 children.
Jasmin M Sheikh, principal of Kalupur Public School, said, “This is the third year since the school opened in 2019… the school has not seen such a rush before. The school has a long waiting list in all three classes — junior and senior KG and Class 1. Sixty students shifted from private to our school in classes 2 to 6 this year. Parents have realised that when they get quality education free of cost then why to go to private schools. We have decided to open a sister school at Dariyapur Public School and are asking parents in waiting to get admission there.”
The Dariyapur Public School, another English medium school, constructed within an existing school campus, will start this academic session.
Though no child has been denied admission, authorities have to work out accommodating these children. “We have worked out a plan of opening sister schools for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sankul, Isanpur and Kalupur schools at nearest schools within a radius of 500 metre to one kilometre. With limited infrastructure, more sections cannot be added at these schools,” said AMC School Board administrative officer LD Desai.
As on July 31,2021, the highest number of students shifted in these 453 municipal run schools is in Class 4 with 891 students, followed by Class 3 with 836 students. As many as 3,856 students have shifted to 314 municipal run Gujarati medium schools in Ahmedabad city.