External and private student candidates registering for the HSC and SSC examinations in February-March 2023, which are to be conducted by the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE), faced a hurdle while filling up their examination application forms after several of them were asked to pay additional fees by the contact centres at their preferred schools or junior colleges. External and private students can register for the examinations through Form no 17, which is also useful for ones who have left school because of social, economic, family or personal problems.
“I had filled out the form online and also paid the required examination fees by visiting a cyber cafe. When I went to a junior college to submit my forms for the process of verification, I was asked to pay Rs 6,000 straight up. I could not pay the fee and ended up going to another junior college in Nana Peth. There too, they asked for Rs 500 but at least I got to submit my examination form,” said a 17-year-old student, requesting anonymity.
Pratiksha Hawale, a mobiliser at Manodaya Centre, Shivajinagar, said many students were not allowed to submit their forms at schools or junior colleges. “There are many students who moved away from the education system due to social and economic problems. One such student, a 17-year-old who will be appearing for her 10th standard examination, was not allowed to submit her form, with the college citing unavailability of seats. The student was asked to try a college centre in Alandi. Her parents asked her to leave her studies. It is sad that while we try to bring such students back into the education system, such issues make access even more difficult.”
Mandar Shinde, a child rights activist and convenor at Action for the Rights of the Child (ARC), said they approached the state board and the divisional board officer after receiving such complaints from students. “We had received several such complaints from various organisations and children that we work with. We tried to resolve the issue at the divisional board but they could not initiate action as the schools and junior colleges come under the education department… The authorities have assured us that they will take action against schools brought to their notice.”
Sharad Gosavi, chairman of the MSBSHSE, said that an official letter has been issued to all divisional centres to ensure that no student is asked to pay an additional fee. “A complete inspection report will be sought with respect to this matter. Defaulting schools or junior colleges will have to face action.”