It has been a year since Ganesh (name changed) was admitted to a private unaided school in Vijayanagar under the 25 per cent Right to Education (RTE) Act quota. For his parents though, securing the “free seat” was not the last challenge; it was just the beginning.
Ganesh’s mother said that the family’s monthly expenditure had increased after their dream of admitting their son in an English-medium school came true.
What they hadn’t factored in was the effect of peer pressure on this Class 1 student.
From expensive soft toys to new shoes — he was beginning to crave for everything.
“This month my son asked me to buy him new shoes, crayons and an expensive soft toy. He says that all his friends in school have these things. I find it hard to refuse him but I cannot afford to spend so much,” said the child’s worried mother.
Studying in a private school also means expenses poor families can ill afford. R. Nagesh (name changed) has been steeling himself for such demands ever since he was admitted to LKG last year.
‘Things are better’
Mizba Shariff’s story too has only “25 per cent” happiness. She was part of the infamous “hair-cutting story” last year, when the hair of students admitted under the quota was allegedly cut to distinguish them from the regular students.
A year after that incident, the Class 1 student appears to have settled down. Her father, Sohail Shariff, says with some hesitation: “Yes, there were acceptance issues initially (with the school management and children). They were made to sit separately, play separately... but those things don’t happen anymore.”
Promising a free seat is the only thing the Act appears to have achieved a year since its proper implementation. The rest of what the Act promises is yet to become a reality, as one can gather from the experiences of the “beneficiaries” of the RTE Act.
What after Class 8?
Another big question that haunts parents of children admitted under section 12 1(c) of the Act that guarantees at least 25 per cent reservation in private unaided schools is: what after Class 8?
M. Gangadhar, a pourakarmika whose son Srinivas G. has been admitted to a private school in Kanteervanagar, was not even aware of the possibility of the dead-end until recently.
“I really wish the government thought about extending the free education till Class 10. The first year was a smooth sail, but how will I arrange for his education after Class 8? I will have to shift him to another school after that,” he lamented, worrying about the uncertain future that is nine years away.