Mumbai: While a few schools have refused to give entry to children seeking admission through the Right to Education (RTE) Act citing various reasons, many private schools who have given admission to children have refused to provide books and uniforms to them free of cost.
As many as 33 schools in the city were sent notices from the BMC’s education department for collecting fees after giving admission or compelling students to buy books, uniforms and other stationery items from the school on a charge and some for denial of admission itself.
A hearing with education officials was conducted on Wednesday of schools which were charging fees of various kinds or refusing to provide books and uniforms free of cost. It was attended by 20 of these schools, while some school representatives remained absent.
“Schools have complained that while they can provide admission under RTE, it is not financially viable for them to give books, uniforms and other items to children free of cost,” said an official. “They say they have activities such as field trips, for which they cannot charge RTE students, at the same time they cannot discriminate and must include these children in such activities,” the official added.
The reimbursement that schools are supposed to receive from the government for RTE admissions has not reached them for the past two years. The government reimburses schools for only tuition fees, that is, a maximum of Rs. 14,000 per child per annum.
While the RTE Act is unclear on the matter of schools having to give free books, uniform, etc, a 2014 circular issued by the education secretary (primary) of the state makes it clear that schools must provide these items to children seeking admission under the RTE Act, free of cost.
The circular states that parents should not be charged any kind of fee, including for these items. It further says that parents should also not be asked to buy these items from outside and if parents have made any such expense, then the school should reimburse them for it.
Department officials have asked schools to make a written representation regarding their issues. This will be sent to the deputy director of education. “Till there is a decision on the matter from the deputy director, we have asked schools to keep the matter on hold,” said an official.
On Thursday, there will be a hearing of six schools against which there are complaints of denying admission to students under the RTE Act.
Source : The Free Press Journal