Summer school admissions - An Interview with Padmaja
I was half way thru my vacation sitting in a hotel room, and talking to Padmaja on phone. The recent developments in the Mumbai team seemed very interesting, what with many of our students completing their tenth standard examinations and applying for various colleges. Padmaja has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes and it was good to have her talk about them. Here are some excerpts...
Padmaja (P): Geeta was so confused about the course that she should take. She is very confident that she does NOT want to do Arts or Commerce. And she does want to do engineering, but was kind of apprehensive, considering she would have to cope with the English language and also four years of engineer AFTER her junior college ends. She was so confused that she took inputs from many many people.
Varun (V): It is good, that she is concentrating so much on her education and her career paths. What do her parents think about engineering?
P: Her parents seem totally co operative, but I am slightly concerned. Engineering means she would have to give up her part time jobs and study another 6 years from now (incl junior college) and I hope she and her parents are able to take that kind of stress. Especially her father. He is all hunky dory when talking in front of us, but behind closed doors, he really does not appreciate the need to spend so much time and money on education. That is what worries me.
On the other hand, Shubham from Borivali seems to take his career very easily. Right now, Geeta is the most determined of the lot.
V: How about the Andheri pada? What is happpening there?
P: Lalita has scored decent marks and so has Aarti. But these people are so irresponsible. They do not even have caste certificates with them.
V: Uh oh...And what is happening on that front across the centers?
P: Everywhere it is the same story. Geeta also did not have it. I had to literally scold her parents and tell them to make sure the certificate is ready - by hook or by crook - within 2 days. The applications are all online this year and I had already categorised Geeta's caste in it. Then luckily, her parents did act soon and got the certificate readied and delivered on time. On the contrary, when I told Arti's parents to get these done, they asked me if I can help them do it. I said I wont and that they should do that at least themselves. We were supposed to meet in a couple of days but they didn't turn up, nor did they intimate me. How many times does one follow up in such cases!
We have to understand that while these girls have done well to surpass the expectation of their communities and score decent marks, these marks are not good enough to get them admission into good colleges. We have to leverage the caste certificates.
V: Hmm... This caste thing...we have to make sure that after all these admissions are done with, we should explain about the caste certificates to the kids and also open up some topic on reservations in education, jobs etc. and if they are needed or not. And if needed, on what grounds. Anyways...what about Raju's daughters? They have certificates?
P: One of the best things to happen there is that Jayasundari has secured 80%. Though it is lesser than what I expected her to score (I was hoping more of 85%), it is very good indeed. But caste certificate? None! And Raju said that even if he got one made from Tamil Nadu and sent it, there might be issues as it is issued from Tamil Nadu. Good point. And when I asked them to go meet a lawyer to get an affidavit done, they were so reluctant, they were not used to roaming around at all, not been beyond the Marol area, so they were apprehensive when I suggested to them this lawyer that I knew, who spoke good Tamil. But they did make it at the end...
V: You said something about admissions being online this year?
P: Yes, and it is both good and not so good. Good, because we are computerising things and not so good because, these people know nothing about 'online'. We had to thrust it into the kids to let us know at the time they were filling their online applications and we would be there at that time. And despite this, Jayasundari went on and filled the apps on her own and messed it up big time!
V: What are you saying??? What did she do?
P: I had given her the list of colleges that she should apply to and in what order. She gave the absolute reverse order as her order of preference.
V: Oh, that could have been corrected later on...surely?
P: You think so? We were running from pillar to post for a week at the admissions office. Finally, that lady looking at my sorry face, came up with a solution that could have been suggested long time back. She rejected the application, so that it opened up in 'edit' mode for Jayasundari again, and she was able to change the order! Phew! It was a close call. But finally, all the applications are done and we have to wait with fingers crossed for the results... Meanwhile, we also had a felicitation ceremony for the Borivali kids and the Andheri kids at the pada. Many children and a few parents turned up for the event. The children were given school bags as gifts and also some sweets at the end. Overall, it was a very happy scene that reflected the entire efforts of DI and the kids over the past one year!
V: Thanks Padmaja, for talking with us for such a long time. Really appreciate the efforts that you have put in. It has not been easy and is definitely not, considering that the parents also act in a lackadaisical manner, it is very very difficult to keep up the focus. You have done that admirably!