Delay in postmatric scholarship may trigger large-scale dropout
Vidya, a second-year engineering student from Dindigal, may soon drop out of college and start making match-sticks.
CHENNAI : Vidya*, a second-year engineering student from Dindigal, may soon drop out of college and start making match-sticks. She is one of the thousands of students from the Dalit or tribal communities, who are now being not permitted by many private colleges to take semester exams. The reason is the state government’s failure to pay their college fees under the post-matric scholarship for the students from the socially disadvantaged sections.
The BJP-led union government earlier this year announced that it would stop funding the scholarships for Dalit and tribal students admitted under the ‘management quota’ in private colleges. However, the state government stepped in and said it would take the burden and pay the college fees, instead. But the state government has been delaying paying the college fees and many of the private engineering colleges are now refusing to issue hall tickets to these students. In some cases, the students were made to give a written undertaking that they would soon pay the fees.
But, for many of these students from disadvantaged social backgrounds, paying the fees in the engineering colleges is nearly impossible.Vidya’s father, for example, cuts trees for a living. Her mother is a domestic help and Vidya has a twin sister Her sister and she are first-generation college students. Girls in her age-group in the neighbourhood are usually sent to a match factory in Kayatar to support the family financially before they are married off.
“My parents told that my sister and I also had to go to the match factory and earn. Social workers spent hours convincing my parents to send me to college and promised that our future would be brighter if we went to college. Both of us scored over 900 marks in Class 12 public exams,” she said.
Another student, pursuing second-year Aeronautical Engineering in a college in Coimbatore, said that she had been fighting every day with her parents, who are forcing her to drop out. “Both my parents are daily wage workers and cannot pay my fees. My brother is in class 12 and his future education too depends only on this scholarship,” she said. Although she was allowed to write her exams this semester, it was after a lot of humiliation, she says.
“There are nearly 24 students in my class and over 100 in my college, who benefit from the postmatric scholarship. We were not allowed to enter the lab before the practical examination and were made to stand outside when other students were assembling. We had to beg our college management and they finally let us in, after the exam started,” she said recalling her agony.
While Tamil Nadu boasts of the best gross enrolment ratio in the country, this may face a threat, if the scholarship funds are not disbursed, said M Bharathan, state convener, Ambedkar Kalvi Centanary Movement, speaking to Express. “Only about 10,000 SC students pursued engineering in 2011-12. Over 1.5 lakh students are studying now. The improvement in enrolment of SC students can be attributed purely to postmatric scholarship,” he said.
It is learnt that the delay in paying the college fees was due to confusions caused by the Union government’s change in the norms for the scholarships and also a pending litigation in the Madras High Court. Last year, the state government issued two orders capping the amount of scholarships for students under the ‘management quota’ with the same as that of the fees for the seats in the ‘government quota’.
The order was later challenged in the Madras High Court and has been stayed by an interim verdict.
If the government does not continue giving the scholarship funds on time, the threat of large-scale drop-out will not be restricted to engineering courses alone, warns R Christodas Gandhi, former additional chief secretary, Tamil Nadu government. “There are students from arts courses, B Ed and other professional courses, who depend solely on this scholarship,” he said.
Speaking to Express, Mangat Ram Sharma, principal secretary to the State Higher Education department, said the department had written to the government seeking clarification on the scholarship disbursal and the status of eligibility of students in self-financing colleges.“We have, however, instructed colleges to allow students to take their examinations,” he said.
Courtesy: The New Indian express