Centre to pay for poor children in unaided schools

Proposal sent to Finance Ministry

In a move that may give a sigh of relief to many state governments, the Centre has proposed to incur the expenditure on the implementation of 25 per cent quota for the children of economically weaker sections (EWS) in unaided schools under the Right to Education Act (RTE).

The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has proposed to fund the states towards the implementation of 25 per cent EWS quota in unaided private schools under the RTE Act while deciding the annual Sarva Siksha Abhiyan plan.

The proposal, which is also part of the 12th five year plan of the HRD Ministry, has been sent to the Finance Ministry for clearance. “It is likely to be approved and announced by the finance minister in his Budget speech in March,” sources in the HRD Ministry told Deccan Herald.

The proposal has been prepared by the ministry to ensure that children belonging to economically weaker and disadvantaged sections get free and compulsory education even at the unaided private schools, under the provisions of the RTE Act. The implementation of the mandatory 25 per cent quota in unaided schools has emerged as one of major challenges to the implementation of RTE Act in states since it came into force in 2010.

“Although this provision under the Act was made with a far-reaching intent and vision for the children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups, the modalities for its implementation have been clouded by several concerns, including resistance from the private unaided schools, reimbursement procedures for such expenditure and feasibility of provision of midday meal to such children,” the ministry sources said.

Under Section 12 (c) of the RTE Act, it is mandatory for schools, which are not receiving any kind of aid or grants from the government, to admit in class one, to the extent of at least 25 per cent of the strength of that class, children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory education to them till the completion of elementary education.

The law also provides that state government or local authority will reimburse the expenditure so incurred by the school on each per child. “But, many state governments have been reluctant to implement the quota citing financial constraints,” the ministry sources said. Some states like Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal have started reimbursing the expenditure incurred by the private schools on providing free and compulsory education to poor children. Last year, Odisha, too, decided to enforce 25 per cent quota for children belonging to weaker and disadvantaged sections in private schools from the coming academic session.

“But, many states still remain reluctant to take the responsibility. Now, if the proposal of the ministry to fund them against expenditure incurred on EWS students in unaided schools had its way, one of the biggest hurdles in its implementation will be removed,” sources said.

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