Experts ask parents to keep tabs on dilution of RTE

Schools come up with strange reasons to deny admission

Experts ask parents to keep tabs on dilution of RTE

  Child rights activists and non-governmental organisations in the City, who came together to observe the third year of Right to Education Act on Sunday, called for keeping a close watch on any dilution of the legislation.

The NGOs including South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), Child Rights Trust (CRT), Radio Active and Sparsha that have jointly constituted an RTE Task Force to monitor the implementation of the Act, held a panel discussion involving beneficiaries of the RTE Act.

Speaking on the occasion, Child Rights Trust director Vasudeva Sharma said the government is still not interested in implementing the provisions of the Act in its full spirit.
“Now that the 25 per cent reservation for children with poor financial background has taken off, we have to closely monitor the implementation for the next eight years till the first batch of students under the provision complete elementary education,” he said.

He pointed out that even though playground is a mandatory specification under the RTE Act for any school seeking recognition, the Union government recently gave a concession to schools in this regard. During October last year, a few private schools approached the Ministry of Human Resources asking them to bail out of this specification as, in urban areas like Bangalore, it is difficult to obtain land for construction of schools.

“The government has obliged and sent out circulars saying that in cases where playgrounds are not available, schools can make use of the municipal grounds in the locality.”

This concession on basic specification for a school indicates a dangerous trend. Schools could also ask for lenience in provision of specific number of teachers, ayahs or toilets. The public must  monitor these issues closely and condemn initiatives detrimental to students’ development, Sharma added.

What is quality?

The government should define in precise terms what “quality of school” is. In a manner similar to how students are tested for progress, teachers too must be evaluated, he opined.

He stressed that minority institutions too fall under the framework of the Right to Education Act, in spite of being omitted from providing 25 per cent reservation to students from weaker sections.

“Many minority institutions have been misusing this clause to interpret that they need not follow the minimum standards prescribed by the Act,” he explained.

Parents’ woes

On the occasion, parents shared their experiences of enrolling their children in schools under the RTE reservation provision. One of the parents, Indira, who took part in the panel discussion, narrated how the private school in which she had sought admission for her son for LKG in the City denied admission.

The institution said it fell under the minority category and hence was not obliged to provide seats under reservation. “When this was pointed out to the Block Education Officer, it was found that the school was not a minority institution and the management eventually ended up providing as many as 55 seats.”

Another parent, Kumar, said he was shocked to see the poor awareness about RTE in schools. Kumar approached a few schools in the city for admission to his son.
“I came to know about this through newspapers. I did not have a clue about RTE Act before that. To my shock, when I approached one school, the principal did not know what RTE was.”

Further, the school could not provide him application for admission under RTE and the parent was directed to the BEO concerned. At the BEO’s office, Kumar was asked to download it from the department website. “If I was financially sound, tech savvy and had internet connection at home, why would I try to get admission under the reservation quota,” asked Kumar.

Parents also felt that they could ensure that no discrimination was done to their kids at school, if they formed a network.

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