As admissions for the economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups to private schools under the Right to Education Act get underway in Delhi, there is confusion among the families in these categories as well as in the schools.
Parents are being harassed by schools which demand fees, ignore ration cards as income proof, demand income proof from the disadvantaged groups, refuse admission due to minor errors in address, or charge for books and uniforms, claimed Delhi-based NGO Indus Action. Apart from refusal on seemingly technical grounds, some schools go so far as to bar entry of the families belonging to EWS and DG category, or set up limited and arbitrary timings for their entry into the school, Indus Action added.
When asked why schools are reluctant to admit children according to the RTE provisions, Indus Action’s Anurag Kundu said, “The reimbursement that private schools will get will open their account books to government scrutiny. Second, is a cultural issue — the prejudice and lack of internalisation of diversity.”
Reimbursements to the schools have been delayed, affecting the financial health of a school. “Apart from the cultural issue, the other two can be taken care of by the government, only if it chooses to care,” said Mr Kundu.
Under Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE, a child in the age group of 3-6 years belonging to the economically weaker section or disadvantaged group (SC/ST/OBC, people with disability, orphan or transgender) can get admission in all unaided, non-minority, private schools. Under this section, the child is entitled to free admission, books and uniforms, and does not have to pay tuition fees. The RTE mandates the reservation of 25 per cent seats in entry-level classes (nursery, KG or Class 1) in all unaided, non-minority, private schools for children from socially and economically disadvantaged sections.
Though the Directorate of Education is committed, there is very little that the city government can do against the schools under the Delhi School Education Act, said Mr Kundu. “The only options available are shutting (the schools) down and taking-over their administration. This is an extreme step which no government would like to take. So usually, schools have a free run,” said Mr Kundu.
One parent in Onkar Nagar has made several trips to the school his child has been allocated. “The school is refusing to admit my child because my name is not on the ration card, it only has my wife’s name. They have also asked me to pay Rs 200,” the confused father said. “I don’t know what is happening, I will keep checking,” he added.
When contacted by this newspaper, the school vehemently denied asking for any fees. “Schools like us are helping the government execute its policies. But even after giving the education department data every year for the past three years, no amount has been reimbursed till date,” said the school manager, on condition of anonymity for fear of prosecution by the government. “We take in children under the RTE in the spirit of providing education, but how long can we carry on in this manner?”
In another case of violation of the RTE, a school in East Vinod Nagar initially told parents there would be no admissions in their school through the provisions of the RTE, a relative of a child seeking admission told this newspaper. “When we demanded that they write on our form that they will not conduct RTE admissions, they simply refused,” he said. When the school was contacted by this reporter, it said they had received “lots of forms,” and would hold a draw on March 25.
“It’s ridiculous to conduct a draw on the March 25 when the academic session is supposed to start from April 1. After the lottery, at least one week should be given for the formalities and there should be provision for another round of draw lest some parents back out,” said Indus Action volunteer Robin Keshaw.
Source : The Asian Age