Activists have urged the State government not to release money to private schools as fee reimbursement for students they had admitted under provisions of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE).
They argue there are several ambiguities in the implementation of the 25 per cent reservation in private, unaided, non-minority schools in Tamil Nadu and hence the government should hold back payment of fees to private schools.
Earlier this month, following demands from the private schools that the State government reimburse the tuition fees for students admitted under RTE, a sum of Rs. 97 crore was taken as loan by Sarva Siksha Abhiyan from the State’s exchequer to pay schools for admitting students for 2013-14 and 2014-15.
It was only following this Government Order that many schools accepted applications for admissions for the academic year 2015-16.
“Despite news reports, there has been no action taken by the School Education Department. These parents are from marginalised sections and are being harassed by schools.
Due to the fear of their child being victimised, parents might not have made a formal complaint,” P.B. Prince Gajendra Babu from the All India Forum for Right to Education said.
Another issue with the implementation of the RTE is the charging of fees for uniforms, books and other additional expenses incurred.
“According to Section 3(2) of the RTE, no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing the elementary education,” he said, adding that in certain schools, the fee was as high as Rs. 25,000 a year for kindergarten students.
K.R. Nandakumar, secretary of Tamil Nadu nursery, primary, matriculation and higher secondary schools said it was unfair that students were forced to pay Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 9,000 for textbooks.
However, unless the government covered the cost of books as well, schools will be unable to purchase them for children.
“When it comes to additional fees such as computer classes, music classes, dance classes and other expenses, the fees committee should take these into consideration when fixing the fees of the school,” he pointed out.
Unaware of violations
A senior School Education department official said they were unaware of any violations of the RTE and assured they would look into the issue.
Activists said there have been instances of parents from poor backgrounds being harassed by schools