116 NIOS students may miss exams this year

In limbo

In a cruel joke, all 116 students attached to the NIOS Accredited Institute, St John’s High School, face punishment for ‘late fee payment’ though all of them have paid their exam fee well in time.

The accredited institute, it transpires, is to blame for the lapse. It collected the fee from the students within the stipulated time but forwarded the total amount by a single demand draft only on January 19, 2011, to the NIOS, Hyderabad.

The NIOS circular dated December 2, 2010, signed by its Regional Director C Neelap, mentions the last date for fee collection as January 14, 2011, and the date of remittance as two days after the last date of fee collection, “after which a late fee would be imposed on the AI.”

Apparently, the Accredited Institute sent the DD at least two days late but it has refused to pay the late fee from its own coffers. It expects the students instead to pay up or face the threat of “no hall ticket, no exam.” The examinations are just weeks away and the students are yet to receive their hall tickets.

Princess Franklyn, principal of St John’s High School, the AI in question, sympathises with “the poor students” but blames the regional head of the NIOS in Hyderabad.

“He threatens to withhold the hall tickets, and later, the results, if the late fee is not remitted to NIOS soon,” she alleges. “If we were in the wrong, why was the DD encashed?” she asks.

The Regional Director cites the rules and makes it clear that the fine will be collected from St John’s High School. He asserts that the students will not suffer for the Accredited Institute’s fault. “All the 116 students will get their hall tickets,” he declares.

‘Two’ much confusion?

Princess Franklyn says she has in her possession, an unsigned letter from S P Selven, Deputy Director (Evaluation),  NIOS, Noida (20-12-2010), which instructs her that the single DD be sent to the Regional Centre of NIOS by January 20, 2011. C Neelap says: “I don’t have a copy of that letter. There has been no reference to that letter by the school to me in writing.”

As the NIOS Regional Centre, Hyderabad, and St John’s High School quibbled over the fine print in the two circulars (both of which are in Deccan Herald’s possession) some of the students paced the school compound anxiously on Monday afternoon. While 90 of the 117 students attached to this centre have paid up the late fee of approximately Rs 800 each, the rest have decided to fight it out.

Dinah George, Director, TAFAL (seven of her students have refused to pay the late fee), says St John’s is coercing her students to pay the fine which the NIOS wants the school to pay, for its lapse. All NIOS students of SJHS should be given hall tickets and the extra payment of Rs 800 made should be refunded. “The Education Ministry should look into the matter,” she adds.

Won’t pay, say students

Eiman Abdul Gani (17), one of the affected students, says: “I have decided not to pay the fine because it isn’t my fault. I’ve paid my fees on time. If the AI centre didn’t send it to NIOS in time, why should I be penalised? My mother works really hard to give me an education; we cannot afford to waste money.”

Priya Gupta (20): “Everything is so disorganised. I paid in time. Then the school tells me I wouldn’t get my hall ticket if I didn’t pay the fine. So my dad paid up.”

S Sumati (31), a physically challenged woman who is doing her Senior Secondary through this AI, has also refused to pay the late fee on principle.

“The point is not whether it is Rs 800 or Rs 8,000. Why should we be penalised for no fault of ours? I am ready to lose a semester and take the October exams but I can’t understand this kind of tamasha,” she said.

“What tamasha?” thunders Shoba Daniels, NIOS teacher-coordinator at St John’s High School, on phone.

“Why are these students making a fuss? It’s a small matter. I’ll appeal to the students and their parents to pay up. After all, it’s their future that is at stake.”

She concedes that the students are not to blame but says “they have to pay up. I was ill during January 14, 2011, and then came after the long weekend. That led to the delay in compiling the computerised list of candidates from our centre and sending it to NIOS, Hyderabad. Let the students pay and appear for the exam. Then, we’ll see.”

The principal expresses ‘helplessness’ in the matter and also her willingness to travel to Hyderabad to ensure that the students are not penalised.

Children of a lesser god?

Considering that most NIOS students are drop-outs, one would think that they need all the support the system can offer to help them continue their education and earn their degrees. What we discovered, instead, was rather shocking.

“We aren’t treated well at most AI centres. We are routinely insulted. My centre doesn’t take my phone calls; they don’t listen to me when I go there with queries. In comparison, the ICSE students are treated really well. I am aware of this discrimination because I have been an ICSE student myself. I couldn’t cope with the ICSE syllabus, so I switched to the NIOS scheme. Many teachers who are roped in as NIOS coordinators are only interested in marking attendance, not in teaching us. They ask us to do self-study. We are asked to leave our records with the security guards of the school as the teachers are often too busy to meet us. Why should we be treated so badly? Why can’t NIOS get its act together?” asks a 17-year-old NIOS student who, for obvious reasons, does not wish to be named.

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