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A study reveals the sad plight of economically deprived students

Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a not-for-profit organisation based in Chennai,  conducted an opinion survey amongst the families belonging to lower income group,  about the  problems they face in educating their children at various levels. N.S. Venkataraman lists out the findings of the study

There is high level of realisation amongst the parents in poor families that the only way of ensuring a bright future for their sons and daughters is to provide them the best of education, particularly in fields which have high prospects for well paid jobs. Such a level of interest in educating children amongst low-income families is a significant and progressive development that should be recognised by our society. Here are some of the findings of a study conducted recently by Nandini Voice for the Deprived:

1.     There is a general perception that providing education to children in private educational institutions could be far more advantageous than admitting them in government-owned institutions. This view is further explained stating that there is greater discipline and commitment to provide quality education to the students in private institutions.

2.     Most families who send their children to government institutions confess that they do so mainly because they cannot afford to pay the fees demanded by private institutions.  According to them, the decision to send the students to government institutions is due to compulsion rather than choice. Some parents also said that  government institutions at school and college level are not located near their place of living, with inadequate transport facilities. Therefore, they are forced to send their children to nearby private institutions, particularly in the case of children in lower classes even though they find it difficult to pay the fees demanded.

3.     There is preference for admitting students in English medium classes as it is generally believed that  the development of communication skills  in English Language would boost job prospects and also enable them to take up jobs abroad.

4.     While families sending their children to government institutions have no particular problem in economic terms, those sending children to private institutions find it hard to get the money to pay the fees, etc.  This is due to the fact that  the fees charged by private institutions are so high that  they are beyond  the affordability of low-income families.

5.     Apart from charging high fees, most of the private institutions insist that the entire fees should be paid at the beginning of the academic year. They do not accept payment in instalments, which creates problems for low income families     

6.     In significant number of low-income families, men folk have become liquor addicts  and fritter away their income in buying liquor and indulging in other consequent bad habits. The responsibility of running the family increasingly falls on the women who are keen that at least their children should have good habits and occupy good positions in life. When admitting such children to private schools, with their  husband being liquor addicts, many women run from pillar to post to collect some donations from NGOs and kind-hearted persons. Even low-income families, where men folk remain responsible, are forced to seek donations or loans to pay the fees demanded by private institutions. However, such NGOs and  kind-hearted persons are few and far between in number.    

7.     Many NGOs and kind-hearted persons who wish to provide fund support insist that they would pay in the form of cheques or DDs only in the name of educational institutions, and not by cash. This is to ensure that the funds are not misused.  However, several private institutions refuse to accept cheques or demand drafts but insist only on cash payment.

8.     There is no coordination between the NGOs and kind-hearted persons in extending fund support for education for poor families and most of them seem to be operating in isolation. In such conditions, low-income families really do not know from where they would get the support and often go to wrong places and return disappointed.

9.  Educational loan from banks are mostly not available for poor families since many bank managers insist that security should be provided for the loan taken and the poor families have no worthwhile security to offer.

10.  One college student from low income family wryly said: “The government-run schools and colleges are only meant for low-income families and  most of such families may not know where their next meal would come from. However, family members of ministers, top bureaucrats and government officials do not send their children to government-run educational institutions, but only to private institutions. This situation speaks volume about the ground realities.”

(The writer is a columnist and trustee, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai.)

July – September 2022