Maharashtra – RTE admission crisis: Education department blinks first, extends registration deadline to buy time

NAGPUR: To tide over the current RTE admission boycott crisis, Maharashtra’s education department has extended the deadline for schools to register online till January 25. The original deadline of Saturday became untenable after approximately 3,000 private unaided schools decided to stay away from the RTE admission process because of non-payment of dues. While deadlines have been extended in previous years as well, given this year’s stand-off between school associations and education department, the latest deadline extension is seen as the government coming under pressure.
School associations are refraining from officially commenting on the education department’s deadline extension and claiming a moral victory, as they do not want to “antagonize” the already strained relationship. A local school trustee, said, “The ball is now in the government’s court. We have made our stand clear and we can’t be reacting for every action they take. The deadline extension is clearly a case of them blinking first but still it is not a statement. Maybe they are willing to talk to us, maybe they are hoping to drive a wedge between us by luring some schools to the other side. It’s better for us to keep quiet for now and wait for something concrete to happen.”

Various school associations have now come together under a common federation to put up a united face. Rajendra Singh, secretary of Independent English Schools Association (IESA), said, “On January 27, we will be addressing a press conference in Mumbai in which other association members will also be there.”
While the schools have adopted a wait and watch policy, the education department is trying the micro-management strategy. Dipendra Lokhande, district’s education officer, said, “There are 253 schools in Nagpur district that have not registered for RTE yet, and the admission process cannot move ahead till every single school submits the form online. We will now be asking our officials to follow up with individual schools under their area and get the process moving.”
But even Lokhande admits that as of now his officials can only ‘request’ and not take any action. “Action against schools is a decision that has to be taken at the state-level. I will follow whatever orders come from superiors. For now, we will just speak with principals and see that they do not face any problems while registering,” said Lokhande.
Now all eyes will be on January 27 when all school associations are planning to address a joint press conference. Though deadline for registration in January 25 midnight, the government won’t take any immediate action against schools with the next day being a public holiday. Another school trustee, who manages a multi-branch institute, said, “After one week, only two things will happen. Either school associations back down after accepting some written assurance from state government, or all hell breaks loose with the education department initiating strong action like derecognition of schools.”

Source: The Times of India

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