Hemali Chhapia & Vinamrata Borwankar
Mumbai: They were supposed to go to school with everyone else. But the move towards equal education has been marred by contorted reasons and handicaps like slow admission process and lack of awareness among families. Schools too have often been unwelcoming in accepting students from all pin codes into one class. At the close of the 2015 admission season, of the 22.9 lakh seats available under the 25% quota for socially and economically disadvantaged children, only 3.46 lakh (15%) were filled.
The mandate though beautiful, said experts, failed to achieve even the half-mark. Delhi did best and filled 44.61% spots with deserving students who could attend a private unaided non-minority school. Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand followed. Of the 1.56 lakh seats under this quota in Maharashtra, 28,028 (17.9%) were filled.
A report by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and other agencies found that states had unclear rules and guidelines to implement Section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which mandates 25% reservation for children from economically and socially disadvantaged sections in private unaided non-minority schools.
Ashish Dhawan, founder and chairman, Central Square Foundation, a philanthropy, said, “Awareness is still patchy, especially in rural areas. Once children enter the school system, the provision of supporting and child-tracking is almost non-existent.”
Ambrish Dongre of the Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research, said, “Out of Rs 1,466 crore that states requested for implementation, only Rs 250 crore was approved by the Centre. Only Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand got assistance from the Centre, indicating that states need to do a lot more.”