The scramble for admission to Grade I in government schools continues through the second week of February. Parents from various areas were driven from pillar to post by certain principals and Ministry `Brahmins` inspite of Minister Susil Premajayantha working from almost 7.00 a.m. daily to meet parents with grievances, a number of parents told The Island.
After the allegations made last year, about certain school principals wanting their palms oiled to admit children to leading National Schools, it was decided by the former Education Minister President Kumaratunga to computerize the applications for admission to the National Schools which are in high demand. But the heartless computers have apparently failed thousands of applicants leaving a large number of eligible children without schools while approving certain dishonest applications.
On Wednesday (8), the Education Ministry was a sight of desperate parents being sent to various officials, including the Commissioner for Appeals and security guards ordering the public to move from one officer to another while some parents were shoved about like cattle. There were parents from far off as Ampara, Beliatta, Matara, Mawanella and Kandy. Thousands waited for hours but the top officials arrived at their at only around 11.00 a.m.
A list of names, of those selected by the computer is displayed on the Ministry notice board, but the principals do no go by that list. A number of children who are not qualified for admission have already got into some of the leading schools, by their parents presenting false documents to support their applications. There were cases of parents living within a few hundred meters of the school and a case where one of the parents and siblings were past students, being refused admission, parents complained
Some parents had gone to see the Minister and he had seen them from as early as 7.00 a.m. but the stock reply given by the pompous bureaucrats was they could hand over appeals or go to the divisional or regional Education Office of their areas with a routine stereotype letter which simply means the regional office or the principal could use their own discretion. The Commissioner for Appeals could not be contacted for a comment as he did not come to the telephone whenever attempts to contact him were made.
A number of parents said the officials of the ministry are creating problems to make the Education Minister and the President Rajapakse, who has named 2006 the year of the children, unpopular.
The number of appeals are too numerous but the main problem remains with a large number of children still not admitted to Grade I. They have to be found schools, but parents also demanded a probe into the admissions done by certain principals of leading schools, some with the assistance of certain ministry officials.