Thursday, 6 October 2016

A NEET Mess! (And Did I Just Create A Homophonic Oxymoron?!)

Remember in my last post I had said tough times were on but I would surely share at a later date as the matter was sub judice? Here's the unfolding of the nightmarish events...
My daughter, along with with many other Non Resident Indian and Foreign National students, was admitted to Kasturba Medical College, Manipal in the state of Karnataka in India, through the 15% quota reserved for students coming in from overseas. When they finally reported for the orientation program and started college, we all heaved a huge sigh of relief because the last few months had been marked by delay, stress and uncertainty regarding medical admissions in India. This was due to a National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, NEET, which had been introduced at literally the last minute, by an order of the Honourable Supreme Court Of India, after a Charitable Trust filed a case to fight corruption in private medical colleges vis a vis medical admissions. Sounds complicated? Wait! It gets worse!
This happened at the very end of April when the All India Medical Entrance Exam, renamed NEET 1, was but a day away. Students and private colleges pressed the panic button and filed counter suits. State governments went ahead with their government college entrance exams but all private colleges were forced to cancel their exams. While this was happening in India, all international students (the International Baccalaureate, the Senior Cambridge, The American High School Diploma with AP) were busy with their own board exams, blissfully unaware of the fate awaiting them, other than the Indian curriculum schools abroad, the CBSE students, who had finished in March 2016 itself, as is the pattern in India and were watching events unfold back home. These kids were virtually the only overseas NRIs who gave the exam because their schools. being CBSE ones, instructed them to.
The private colleges and a few private petitioners lost the suit but many Chief Ministers went and met the President Of India and explained to him that the State Board students would find it impossible to study for this exam as it was to be especially held again within just two months, since the syllabus differed vastly from the Central syllabus, on which this exam is based. The result of these high level meetings was that an Ordinance was passed by the President, allowing State government colleges to admit students via their own exams just for this year, 2016. In this mad jamboree, no one thought of the Non Resident Indians and Foreign Nationals who were coming from totally different systems and weren't preparing for ANY entrance exam in India, as their admission was based solely on their 12th standard marks.
In keeping with the international pattern for medical admissions, our admission procedure too started way back in December 2015, when we mailed semester one transcripts to medical colleges of our choice back home in India. By April 2015, my daughter had secured provisional admission in all the three medical colleges that she had applied to. It was all a clean, transparent on line procedure, based on merit and within the stimulated frame of time. Confirmed admission would be given after obtaining the prescribed grades in the board exams and paying the fees and after getting the Equivalence certificate from The Association Of Indian Universities in New Delhi, which ensures that they come from recognized schools the world over and equate their results to the Indian CBSE board.
After the NEET became compulsory by May 2016, there were absolutely no instructions given whether it was applicable to students who had done their 12th from outside India. By the end of May 2016, when my daughter finally graduated from school, I called up the college we had originally chosen for my daughter. I was categorically told NO NEET is needed for NRIS but we will not give confirmed admission now but in August 2016, after the NEET results. The second college where she had secured provisional admission too, ten minutes away from my house, did not even bother to reply to my mail dated 2nd June, seeking a clarification regarding NEET. After collecting all her documents from school and getting them endorsed from the Indian High Commission Nairobi, the Ministry Of Education, Nairobi and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nairobi, procedures that took ten days, we travelled to India in the second week of June. The NEET exam was now just five weeks away.
Since none of the websites had updated information regarding NEET for genuine international students and though the colleges kept saying verbally NO NEET, we decided to fill the form. Then Manipal, the college ranked in the top three in India, mailed us again though we had refused admission there way back in April 2016, since I wanted my daughter to be closer to our home town.
Since colleges in Maharashtra were not ready to commit to us anymore, we started the process for taking admission there. They categorically told us the exam is NOT needed for genuine Non resident students and Foreign Nationals. Many students had confirmed admissions from April 2016 itself and still others had not even finished their board exams which went on until the end of June. And so we submitted all the documents they asked for, transferred the fees in American Dollars, as is the government rule for these seats and received the CONFIRMED admission letter on 20th July, four days before NEET 2 on 24th July. And which fool gives an entrance exam they aren't prepared for due a completely different system of education and no warning that it's needed, when they have a confirmed admission letter in hand from a top institute? We, like many others, assumed that this sixty plus year old college had properly examined and correctly interpreted the rules for international admissions, which was the case till then, because no clarification had come from any quarters at that point in time.And an earlier judgement had given exemption to the minority quota. Our original choice of college mailed us on 14th July, still insisting there was NO clarity regarding NRIS and the one near the house mailed us on 2nd July, saying they presumed we had filled the form, though they had no instructions yet! Both these mails came after the NEET form filling date was over!
On 4th August, ten days after NEET 2 the Medical Council of India, sent circulars to all the private colleges saying that being NEET qualified was mandatory for ALL admissions, no matter which category. And so the colleges went to their State High Court but kept students and  parents from sixteen different colleges in Karnataka in the dark!
And so we bid farewell to our flesh and blood in September and these bright young minds began college. The colleges lost the case in the High Court on 15th September itself, when orientation was still on, and the parents had not even left the campus. We were infomed by email on 17th September at the end of day, that the HC case had been lost ( we had never been informed there was a case!) and though the HC was sympathetic to the genuine International students, only the Supreme Court of India could take a decision and colleges were directed to approach it. The students admissions were protected only till 30th September 2016.
Then began the mad scramble to save the futures of these children! We are all scattered in different parts of the world. There were students from The United States Of America, Canada, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Eithiopia, the UAE, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia! And that's just my daughter's college. There were students from fifteen other colleges in that state alone, with many others scatttered all over India. We formed a Whats App group and began brain storming. We had barely a few days before the case would come up before the Honourable Apex court in Delhi.
We decided to join together for an impleadment along with the Special Leave Petition of the Colleges as we wanted to point out that our admisssions had been based on merit and our kids were genuinely from other systems of education. We were not the ones who had 'bought' the left over NRI seats without giving the NEET exam, despite studying in India, as is the norm in Medical colleges. These 'Management seats' are sold for astronomical sums.
We, a core group of ten parents, pooled in our money, hired lawyers, put together an appeal and prayed really really hard. The cost ran into lakhs of rupees. What stood out the most was that seven out of these ten students were girls and I LOVED the way their Dads FOUGHT for their daughters. These are all super successful, busy men, Directors and CEOs of global companies, but everything was put aside for their girls! If we had more such fathers in India, female foeticide would be a thing of the past! We had Gold Honour students, a winner of President Obama's award for academic excellence, AP scholars with distinction, school toppers all with super high GPAs and all had had other offers which they had turned down to study in India! We put together all these documents to present to the esteemed court, including the ones from the colleges which said no NEET was needed for this category of admissions. A couple of parents flew back to India to attend the hearing, when they had just got back home after settling their kids...
On 28th September 2016, the Colleges lost the case and along with them, we did too. Our children were asked to leave college after spending two glorious weeks there. These heart broken teenagers who had been very brave till then, believing the system would give them justice, were completely crushed! Parents had to fly back to India to pick up their kids and my mother travelled from our home town to pick up my daughter. Hostel rooms that had been brightly decorated, had to be packed up, white coats that had been barely worn had to be discarded, books that they had just started studying from had to be bundled up and put away, may be for ever...It was the end of a dream for absolutely NO fault of theirs. They had become the latest victims of a system that was confused about the way forward after hastily implementing an exam. This does happen in incredible India!!
What the people in power do not realize is that medical admission applications, even for 2017 are already over in most countries that have good colleges! The UKCAT for medical admission is over and applications for NEXT August will close next week. The South African Entrance medical college applications and the Australian ones for February 2017 closed by 30th June 2016! Our children now have simply no where to go and are looking at losing a year with no idea where they will get in next year..America does not offer a direct medical college entry. They want to be where the best are and do not want the Russian and Chinese colleges. They want what they had! India, this year.
We have tried very hard to reach our own government but have had NO success. That is our only hope now. We know we are not vote banks since we cannot vote from outside the country, but we do believe in this government and did entrust our children to our country, only to have it all thrown back in our face. The colleges quickly replaced our children by converting our NRI/ FN seats to NRI sponsored with NEET, which means you have someone from out side the country pay your fees in dollars. In fact, they started the process even before the case came up for hearing by placing adverts in national newspapers. In this war, should our children be the sacrificial lambs?
If anyone can put us in touch with the powers that be in Delhi, we will be very grateful. Our children did not even get a fair hearing and were summarily dismissed by the law as well as by the colleges.
If a Foreign National living in India on a visa can be given a seat by the Government because she is not eligible to appear for the NEET, why not extend the same courtesy to students from over seas with those beautiful blue passports and to those with OCI cards, who were told NEET is not needed, until it was applied in retrospect?
Please share my post if you can. I STILL believe in my government and that it will intervene for it's future citizens.

                                How clearly all of us were told NEET does not apply to our category!

While I'm happy for this girl and wish her the very best, we want the NRI/FN case to be looked into too by our Honourable Minister and Prime Minister.

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