Around 15% students on the rolls of the city’s 463 municipal primary schools never attend classes; yet their names are not struck off the admission register. These chronic absentees are actually dummy students who are kept on the rolls only because their names help inflate the number of students studying in municipal primary schools and keep dropout figures artificially down.
If sources are to be believed, nearly all the dummy students have taken admission in some private school without taking a school leaving certificate from the municipal school where they had first taken admission. This means that around 24,000 students out of the total of 1.60 lakh admitted in municipal schools are on the rolls of another school as well, the sources said.
The sources further said that the names of these students continued to be on the rolls of the AMC schools because the municipal authorities allegedly do not allow teachers to the strike off their names. In some other cases, teachers have been unable to trace the families of the absentee students.
Senior officials of Ahmedabad Municipal School Board seem comfortable with the idea of dummy students being on the rolls. They say that dummy students are not something new to municipal primary schools. “Out of more than 1.60 lakh students on the rolls of these primary schools, around 20% are dummies,” said a senior official.
Another official of the school board said that if a student exists, then he (or she) must have got enrolled in some school, formal or informal. “The number of actual out-of-school children is very low. Hence, such a huge number of absentee students cannot be out of school,” the official said.
If their names are removed from the rolls, the dropout ratio will go up drastically. Moreover, there is pressure from higher authorities to enrol more students in Std I every year.
“The authorities of the school board put pressure on teachers to increase enrolment in municipal schools, by hook or by crook. As a result, the teachers resort to such practices,” said a principal of a municipal primary school on the condition of anonymity. Moreover, parents are also to blame because they fill up admission forms just to get the school kit. Later, they admit their wards in private schools, he said.
Besides the ‘ghost’ students, the number of absent students in municipal primary schools is also very high. School board authorities blame lack of awareness among parents for this. DNA found that in Vatva Gujarati School-4, of the total 910 students on its rolls, 67 were absent for more than five months. (DNA has a copy of the absentees’ list).
“We tried our best to trace the students but in vain,” said a teacher of the Vatva Gujarati School - 4. These students do not attend school and have not appeared in examinations either but the school has to promote them to next class so that their names can still appear on the rolls, said the teacher.
In fact, the school board issues a circular twice a year for removing chronically absent students name from the attendance register. Last year, however, the authorities did not issue any such circular on the ground that under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, students’ names cannot be deleted from the school records. “One of the constantly absent students has moved to Mumbai with her family but we cannot delete her name from the students register as higher authorities do not permit that,” said a teacher on the condition of anonymity.