RTE remains a challenge to State

Implementation of the Right to Education Act which was enforced on March 31 this year still remains a challenge to the State government with the resistance of private schools to fall in line.

Following enforcement of the Act, the State government notified the Karnataka Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2012 a month later, in April.

Among other benefits for students, with this, the provision of 25 per cent reservation of seats in unaided private schools (excluding minority schools) for students from economically weaker section gathered momentum. The State government instructed the private managements to immediately make provision for the same in the academic year 2012-13.

This provision for the Act has been under the spotlight more than any other provision mentioned in the RTE Act, as the private managements have been, ever since, blaming the State for imposing it on them without giving them sufficient time for preparation.

Department of Public Instruction Commissioner Umashankar told Deccan Herald that the State government would set to work by raising awareness among the beneficiaries. The primary challenge for the government is to ensure transparency in the admission procedure on part of the schools.

“There is no transparency in the admission process. The managements often refuse to divulge the number of seats reserved under RTE and other information. This might mislead parents and cause a disturbance to their expectations,” he said. BEOs and DDPIs will be designated with the work of creating awareness.

On the other hand, school managements have set a deadline for the government till the first week of January to address several issues that the Karnataka State Private School Management Federation has flagged, with regard to implementation of the Act.

The federation categorically stated that though they are not against providing free admissions to students from lower economic background, they would protest against the government if it failed to reimburse the promised amount of fees. As per the government’s assurance, the schools will get Rs 11,848 reimbursement per child under the provision. In spite of a circular from the Department of Public Instruction declaring that the fund for the reimbursement has been released and schools will soon get their reimbursement, private school managements allege that circulars and assurance have been one too many and nothing has been delivered till now.

Redefining the definition

Two other important demands of the federation are that the government must redefine the definition of ‘economically weaker section’ under the framework of the Act. Presently any student whose family annual income is up to a maximum limit of Rs 3.5 lakh will be a beneficiary. Private schools want the government to make way for those in the last rung by defining economically weaker section as those who come under below poverty line.

The next significant issue raised is redefinition of ‘neighbourhood schools’. The RTE Act emphasises that students must be enrolled in schools in their neighbourhood. The State has defined ‘neighbourhood’ as any school in that particular ward. While ward might cover a distance of more than 10 kms, schools want it to be redefined as not more than a kilometre distance for classes 1 to 5 and within 3 kms for classes 6 to 8.

Highlights

* RTE Act enforced on March 31 2012, State notifies Karn­a­taka Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules (2012) in April 2012
* Private schools directed to reserve 25 percent of seats during admissions to class I for students from economically weaker section
* Schools protest exclusion of minority institutions from reservation. Also complain that the government did not give prior notice for admissions
* Seek government to redefine the concept of neighbourhood school and economically weaker section under the RTE Act
*  Give government deadline till January first week to reimburse the promised amount of fees for free admissions given under RTE reservation

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