CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu’s claim that it has more children admitted in school under the Right to Education Act than any other state appears to be mere humbug and the result of some deft manipulation of numbers.
The school education directorate had claimed the state admitted 89,941 students under the RTE Act during the academic year 2014-15. But in response to an RTI application filed by Satta Panchayat Iyakkam (SPI), an NGO, the directorate has admitted only 2,959 students across the state benefited from the RTE Act during the period.
The school education directorate’s reply shows Salem admitted 241 students under RTE Act, the most among all districts in the state. Dindigul district is in second place (238), followed by Tirupur (205) and Namakkal (191). Kanyakumari (10) admitted the fewest students under the RTE Act. Kancheepuram (12), Nilgiris (12) and Vellore (13) also performed poorly. The RTI reply said only 112 students received admission under the Act in Chennai.
“The fee determination committee fixed the annual cost of a student’s education at Rs 5,000 for LKG and Rs 6,000 for Class 6. The government has exaggerated the numbers to get more funds,” SPI president Siva Elango said at a press conference here on Tuesday.
School education secretary D Sabitha denied that the authorities had faked the numbers. “We admitted 89,941 students across the state for 2014-15 under the RTE Act,” she said. “There could be some errors in the data tabulation.”
The RTE Act mandates that private schools allot 25% of their seats to children from disadvantaged sections and provide tuition, books and uniforms free of charge, with the government reimbursing the schools later.
A policy note by the school education department said the government had allocated Rs 25.13 crore for the implementation of the RTE Act in 2013-14. It said 49,864 children received admission under the Act that year.
Elango said the government owed the public an account of how it used the funds meant for RTE. “The state has not only inflated numbers to get more funds, but has also delayed reimbursal of tuition fees and other expenses to private schools,” he said. “Many private schools collect fees from underprivileged students admitted under the RTE Act because of the delay.”
About the education secretary’s rebuttal of the charges, Elango said since departments use errors in tabulation as an excuse the SPI had collected data from districts individually. “The numbers given by the school education department match the RTI data from all 32 districts,” Elango said. “How can anyone say there was a tabulation error?”
SPI state secretary Jai Ganesh said the government had failed to implement the RTE Act. “The government has given a short period for the public to submit applications at private schools under the Act,” Ganesh said. “Many disadvantaged students fail to get admission because of this.”
Source: Times of India