Pune | NGOs cry foul over RTE, slam govt

Pune: Four years since implementation, Act is still fraught with irregularities, bemoan schools and parents, blame government for mess

The government’s inability to successfully enforce the Right to Education (RTE) Act, even four years since its inception, shows its apathy towards the plight of marginalised students, say NGOs working in the sector. Organisations trying to help parents seek admission under the RTE Act are collating data from across the state regarding the different failings of the government. This will soon be presented before the Bombay High Court, where a petition has already been filed.

The organisations, including two from Pune, are talking to aggrieved parents, whose children were denied basic facilities they are entitled to. Several students, it was found, are attending schools without proper uniforms, because the government and schools are unable to decide who will bear costs. A similar situation also arises over study material, with the schools and state still playing blame games.

“The Act states that no child can be deprived of elementary education, and that the government should take responsibility for this. The state had issued a circular in 2011, saying fees will be reimbursed by the government, but uniforms and learning material will be provided by the schools. The schools are now flouting the order, but the government is ignoring this situation by not taking any action,” said Harshad Barde, a member of the city-based organisation Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Parishad (KKPKP).

“The other thing that needs to be considered is that students who have taken admission under RTE get psychologically affected because there are no guidelines regarding extra-curricular activities. A child sits in class in civil clothes because the school doesn’t give him/her a uniform. This child suffers great emotional stress. They also aren’t allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities due to financial reasons. Such differential treatment in classrooms isn’t healthy. We are collating data and will highlight these in court. Where the government failed, we hope the court can set certain guidelines,” he added.

In their defence, the schools are presenting the Act in original that places complete responsibility on the government to assist students in private schools. Rajendra Singh, Pune president of the Maharashtra English School Trustees Association (MESTA), said, “The Act states that no financial burden shall be put on the parents of students admitted under RTE or on schools where they seek admission. The government is going against the law by issuing circulars stating the schools will provide uniforms and study material. There are Supreme Court verdicts in particular cases which back up this argument. Additional facilities being made available in schools will always come at a price, because the schools themselves are being charged by the companies providing these. The government can perhaps take advantage of CSR funding programmes to help these students. No school is against the RTE Act. They just want the government to fulfil its responsibility towards them.”

Dinkar Temkar, deputy director of primary education, looking after RTE admissions, said, “The court case regarding this is currently going on. It wouldn’t be appropriate to speak about school facilities now. The government is focussing on completing admissions this year as per the court order.”

Meanwhile, the association of schools is conducting a rally outside Balbharti, which houses the office of the commissioner of education, urging clarity in the implementation of the Act.

There are no guidelines regarding extra-curricular activities. RTE students sit in classrooms wearing civil clothes and don’t participate in these activities.

Source: Pune Mirror

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