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Pre-school Admission Blues
- Shital Mehta

I have a son who is now two years old. From the time he was born I was having sleepless nights about his schooling. Would he get admission in a good school or not? What if he fumbled in the interview for admissions? What if we, as parents, failed the interview? It was getting to be a nightmare. I also tried to keep myself abreast about new playgroups in my vicinity from various sources like neighbours, newspapers and the net. It became an obsession.

Subconsciously, I started preparing him since he was just six months old! I showed him pictures of birds and animals, but naturally he did not show the kind of interest I expected. After a few months, I tried again and this time my joy knew no bounds when he responded with "babababa"!

Finally, when he was 18 months old, I thought the time ripe to set the ball rolling. So I set out with like-minded moms on an expedition of collecting admission forms for preschools.

There was a mad rush at the gate and I realized to my horror that I was not the only one to be thus traumatized. No one wanted to miss out on the forms, as there were only limited number being distributed that day. The impatient parent brigade passed time by indulging in a rating game about preschools.

I heaved a sigh of relief since I was one among the few lucky ones who managed to get the much-awaited piece of paper. I had a grace period of six months to prepare for an interview! My next destination was a toy-cum-book shop, where I splurged on books and toys, hoping they may hold the key to admissions. Considering the money one would have to shell out for the child's future education, this investment seemed peanuts. But did it pay? Five months later, after a lot of coaxing to look at the pictures, my son now nearly two years old babbled incoherently. Time was flying. I didn't know where to turn for help.

Suggestions started pouring in from more experienced parents; some advised on giving donations, while others suggested scouting around for influential contacts. It meant calling up one of those distant uncles whom I had met when I was a child. I wondered if I should go to the extent of reminding him that I was his favorite niece, since his neighbour happened to be the Principal of one of the top preschools. I felt ridiculous. I wondered about parents who had no uncles or aunts to pull strings and about those who were not educated enough to prepare their children for these interviews? And what of those who cannot afford to pay hefty donations? What is their recourse? Do their children have no right to study in good schools?

I give up. I do not want be a part of this rat race and torture my child. I would rather let him be himself and not rob him of his childhood in this mad race for admissions.


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