Northern Kerala: Inadequate seats in higher secondary schools leave thousands in uncertainty

Photo: Government Model Higher Secondary School, Mananchira

Raniya PK & Ahsana B

Nishan Muneer PK, a student from Kerala’s Malappuram district has scored a full A+ in the recent Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) Examination, announced last Wednesday. But the high grades may not be enough for him to get into a school of his choice.

For years, the shortage of seats in 11th grade in government schools and other gateways has hampered the dreams of thousands of students in Northern Kerala, commonly known as Malabar.

Muneer is not alone in this dilemma. for the 4,23,303 students eligible for higher studies after the recent public exam, the total number of seats available for higher studies is 3,78,791.

This means 42,903 students will have to look for other options. An overwhelming number of them are from the Malabar districts.

This year, 44,363 students out of a total number of students received A+ grades in every subject.

Among the revenue districts, Kannur has the highest success rate of 98.67% while Wayanad has the least pass percentage of 98.07. With 3,024, the Malappuram district has the most A+ holders across all subjects. These are districts in the Northern region of Kerala called Malabar, where students have to make a tough fight to get through the high cut-off by schools due to inadequate seats.

Malabar students are prone to this social discrimination for a long time yet the changing governments have not taken any necessary measures to secure Malabar students enough seats.

V Sivankutty, the Education Minister of Kerala, while announcing the results, promised that a sufficient number of Higher secondary seats would be made available to all students who qualified for higher studies.

“Inadequate seats for + 1 students in Malabar is leading to a huge discrimination in Malabar where a large number of students pass the exam with academic excellence,” says Thashreef KP from Fraternity Movement Kerala.

“In South Kerala, applicants for + 1 admission Is less compared to the Malabar region and the seats provided for them are higher than that of the Malabar region, which can be regarded as regional discrimination. This can only be resolved if the government allows permanent buildings and batches, rather than increasing the percentages of seats,” he added.

Kerala state witnessed a record victory last year during the SSLC results. Despite the glorious academic excellence, the students couldn’t secure a decent seat for their class 11 through a single-window scheme (Ekajalakam).

38,578 students enrolled for class 11 through open school due to the prevailing lack of seats in the 2021-2022 academic year alone.

Children hailing from different economic backgrounds fail to afford the high fees levied by the private institutions, which tends to quit higher education among the students from struggling families.

The highest number of students appeared for the SSLC examination and became eligible for higher education from Malappuram with a top A+ record. The number of students eligible for higher studies is 77,691 but more than 30,941 students will be left out after considering all the educational choices available including the HSE, ITI, VHSE and polytechnics are 46,750 only.

The number of left-out students has increased at an alarming rate this year.

Things are no different in the Palakkad district as well. 38955 students are eligible for higher education while the number of seats available for the students including ITI, polytechnic, HSE and VHSE are 28823. Which leaves out 10,132 students.

Kozhikode district also faces the inadequacy of 8579 seats with 43,496 students eligible for higher studies since only 34,917 seats are available including ITI, HSE, VHSE and polytechnics.

In Wayanad district, with more tribal students who hail from economically backward families, many won’t be able to afford the academic expense to enrol in a private school. several of them will be forced to stop education if these circumstances continue.

“I completed my 10th studies at a private unaided school. When I move to another school, I expect a good education from there. Because I want to be a doctor so I want to go to a school with entrance coaching. But since I am from Wayanad there are very few governments/aided schools here that are good. Naturally, everyone wants to get admission there, so getting admission there is a herculean task,” Marva Mariyam K, SSLC pass out hailing from Wayanad expressed her concern with Maktoob.

There’s a high chance for backout as the total availability for higher studies is only 9714 seats meanwhile 11,946 students availed eligibility for further studies. If required steps are not taken, 2232 will be forced to quit schooling if they cannot afford private schools.

Kannur district which holds the record for the highest pass percentage also faces a shortage of enough seats for +1 admission. Due to the high pass percentage in the district, 35,167 students qualified for higher studies although they only have the availability of 29,811 seats for pursuing their further studies including all the gateways.

This ratio difference threatens the academics of 5356 students.

Kasargod district with 19,568 pass-outs also does not have adequate seats, the government and aided schools offer only 15,935 which harms the educational rights of 3723 students.

“Adding more seats would result in many pupils being crammed into one classroom. In such a setting, students would not be able to learn well,” Thashreef told Maktoob.

Last year a majority of 70% of these students disproportionately came from Palakkad to Kasargod districts, which proves that the education infrastructure in the region is particularly scant. Regarding the number of seats in the Malabar region, 1555 new batches are required.

“it’s unfortunate that the government haven’t shown the willingness yet to adopt permanent solutions acknowledging the seriousness of the Matter. This shows the government’s discrimination toward the Malabar region,” Thashreef claimed.

“If we think we can study at a school of our choice just because we got full A+ then it is a misconception. Because all schools consider children who have studied there first. In that case, even students like me ( who availed full A+) will have to go for the management seat. But does it mean that those who do not have the money and other necessities to get into the management seat should forget their dreams and desires forever?“ Mariyam added.

“As per the reports, the lack of seats for the +1 admission especially in the Malabar region continues. Being a full A+ scorer, the expectations for a school which I wished to get is less looking back to the past years,” Nishan Muneer PK from Malappuram district claimed to Maktoob.

“According to the statistics, in the coming years also approximately the same number of students as this year would appear for SSLC. Among the competitive schools, dedicated teachers, aspirants with high career goals and academically bright students, Malabar is in dire need of allocating new batches and seats. It’s demanding a long-term solution for the same. May we not have a need to centre this issue from next year onwards!”. Najma Thabsheera, former general secretary of Haritha and an elected people’s representative from Malappuram district told Maktoob.

PTA Rahim, a four-time Independent MLA supporting the leftist front LDF declined to comment on the issue.

Both Raniya PK and Ahsana B are the editorial interns of Maktoob and graduate students in Delhi University.