Activists question tardy process as 10,000 seats still vacant

Pune: For the third year in a row, several beneficiaries of the Right to Education (RTE) Act from Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad will get to join school much later than the official date.

Though the new academic year kicked off on Wednesday, nearly two thirds of the seats reserved in schools under the act remain vacant. At the end of the first round that lasted for almost a month, the RTE admissions committee – headed by the Pune zilla parishad education officer – could fill up only 6,000 of the total 16,000 seats available in 781 schools.

A second round of admissions will be conducted from June 20.

Education experts and activists have criticized the authorities for once again failing to admit students to schools on time.

“It’s frustrating, the way the admission process is moving forward. Year after year, the same issues keep cropping up. There is no forward movement even in the fifth year of admissions and third year of centralized online admissions. The authorities have used the ‘teething troubles’ excuse far too long,” activist Maitreyee Shankar of the Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat said.

She emphasized the need to ensure quick redressal of grievances and a clear defined process for parents to raise their complaints.

“Violations are not being addressed and parents have nowhere to go. Help centres should remain functional till the time the admission process is completed and not just while applications are being filled. The schedule for meetings of the admission committees should be put up on the site and the minutes of the meetings should also be made public,” Shankar added.

On Thursday night, some parents received text messages about the selections. The admission website put up updates about the second round late on Friday. Of the 17,000-odd applications, only 7,900 children have received allotments in the first round and many more are still waiting. Parents said the education office has provided no clear intimation about the timeline of the admissions procedure.

Activists have also complained that schools continue to charge the beneficiaries for books, uniforms and other material and deny them admissions if these expenses are not covered. An activist of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) said the actual number of seats available in Pune was also in doubt as many schools have filled the data voluntarily and still deny admissions.

 AAP spokesperson Mukund Kirdat said, “Many schools must have misguided the officials about the number of seats available, mainly at pre-primary level. One reason behind this failure is the disparity and social attitude towards parents from the weaker section (of society). Another reason is the reimbursement issue. Schools are eligible for reimbursement (for expenses incurred on beneficiaries) as per the RTE Act. The act has clearly stated the months of instalments. If this is a genuine issue faced by schools, they must approach the education minister and court instead of denying admissions to children belonging to economically weaker sections.”
AAP members predicted that the total number of admissions in Pune may not go beyond 8,500 and said the failure was a combined responsibility of the education department, local bodies and unaided schools.

Dhananjay Pardeshi, assistant education officer at the civic education board handling RTE admissions, said, “In the first round, we have achieved a good number of admissions as compared to last year. There are a few complaints here and there, but we are trying to resolve all the complaints and get admissions done. We will also look into schools that are denying children admissions.”

 Under RTE Act, 25 per cent seats in entry level classes (Standard I or pre-primary) of all unaided schools must be kept reserved for students from backward classes of society.

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