Telangana: Why are schools withholding certificates of students between ages of 15 to 18?

According to the RTE Act, no child can be denied admission to a school due to a lack of documents, but the law does not apply to children over the age of 14
Picture for representational purpose only | (Pic: Express)
Picture for representational purpose only | (Pic: Express)

While the options for 17-year-old Swati (name changed) seem limited, she will be forced to marry as soon as she turns 18 if she fails to register for the open first-year intermediate exam this year. Unable to secure admission to a junior college as her private school has withheld her mark sheet and transfer certificates over non-payment of Rs 10,000 in dues, Swati feels dejected. "My younger brother is studying in Class V at the same school. We fear that they (the school management) will harass him if any action is taken," Swati said, stated a report in The New Indian Express.

Many like her have been forced to discontinue their studies despite government orders and several notifications issued by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education (TSBIE) directing private educational institutions not to withhold certificates of leaving students. A lot of private educational schools in the State are explicitly flouting the rule, leading to speculations that the number will rise after the Intermediate and SSC exams.

"We have observed a pattern after the COVID-19 pandemic where students, especially those between 15 and 18 years of age who are not covered under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, are being dropped out of education after the management of private schools retain their certificates. These children, without admission in any other school or junior colleges, fall prey to either child labour or child marriage," said Hima Bindu, a child rights worker,

After letting Swati sit idle at home for more than a year, her parents, who work as daily wage labourers, are now trying to borrow Rs 10,000 thinking it is their fault that they could not pay the fees in full.

"A very well-known school in Hyderabad had withheld a girl's SSC exam hall ticket in December 2021. Her father sold their land to clear the pending Rs 1,30,000,” said Sai Charan, a social worker who voluntarily helps people raise their concerns on Twitter. In the last year, he has witnessed 10 such cases.

After a student attempted suicide at Narayana Junior College in Ramanthapur in August 2022 due to denial of TC, TSBIE instructed all educational institutions to not withhold certificates. The board directed district officers to inspect private junior colleges for compliance. A representation was submitted to the District Educational Office of Medchal in October 2021, but no response has been received.

Despite attempts to contact Navin Mittal, Commissioner and Secretary of TSBIE by The New Indian Express, he did not respond to calls and messages up to the time of publication.

Recommendations, if any 
"Instead of dealing from case to case, why doesn't the government understand that it's a big blanket which needs severe government intervention," Hima Bindu remarked.

She recommended that the Telangana government should follow Delhi's 2021 policy of not denying admission to students from private institutions in government schools due to the lack of transfer certificates.

Notifications are not enough 
"Merely issuing a notification is not sufficient. The government should have established a grievance mechanism where people can lodge complaints and seek redressal within a week," said Prof Shantha Sinha, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee recognised for her distinguished work on eliminating child labour. She also suggested that there should have been a system in place to escalate complaints to higher officials if they were not resolved within a week and added that the government can implement the policy even now.

According to the RTE Act, no child can be denied admission to a school due to a lack of documents, but the law does not apply to children over the age of 14, explained Prof Sinha. She suggested that extending the age limit to 18 years and making it mandatory to complete secondary education would help children stay on the path of education for a longer period.

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