Teething problems abound as 25% seats reserved under RTE lie vacant in several institutions

Though well into the new academic year, several schools in the city are still grappling with the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, with each school at a different stage. While some have filled up the 25 per cent quota, some say that the reserved seats are lying vacant, and a few others say that since this is the introductory year teething problems are bound to be there.

In the absence of enquiries from those belonging to the economically weaker sections, some schools have filled the vacant seats by admitting those who fall under the ‘disadvantaged groups’ category, which according to Tamil Nadu’s guidelines include SC, ST, BC, and MBC children as well as children with HIV/AIDS, disability, children of transgenders, and scavengers.

“We have a total of 160 seats of which the 40 reserved seats have been filled up and most belong to the ‘disadvantaged groups’ category. We received only one application from the ‘economically weaker’ section and when I called the student for the admission process, I got no response,” said C. Sathiamoorthy, Principal, Chinmaya Vidyalaya.

The principal of another school in Kilpauk said that the school had admitted 50 students under RTE Act in L.K.G., which amounts to 25 per cent of their seats (at entry level) and that most of them belonged to the ‘disadvantaged groups’ category. “Since we have a government school within the one kilometre radius of the school, we have no obligation to give a fee waiver,” he said.

However, not all schools have been able to fill the reserved seats so far. They say that the number of enquiries they have received has been low and that their seats are lying vacant. “We have received only three enquiries so far and have admitted one child in L.K.G. We are in the process of getting the documents and verifying them for the other two applications. As per the rules, we will keep the seats open for L.K.G till the stipulated time,” said a principal of a matriculation school in Kotturpuram.

Schools have been asked to put up the number of vacant seats on their notice boards and keep the seats open for admission for six months after the date of re-opening, according to the head of a CBSE school in R.A. Puram. She also pointed to some ambiguity around the 25 per cent reservation clause.

“Since our school has pre-primary, our entry-level is pre-kg and as we received no enquires for pre-kg, we have admitted children in L.K.G. We are waiting for the remaining seats to get filled up. We have borne the cost of the uniforms and the books, and government has to reimburse the fee,” she said.

Heads of some schools were unwilling to disclose the number of admissions made under RTE Act or the number of enquiries their school has received. “It is too early to comment as our admission process is not over,” said the head of one CBSE school, while the principal of another school said, “We have reserved 25 per cent seats at entry-level as per the requirements and will not deny admission to any eligible candidate.”

The school education department, through its SSA wing is said to be tracking progress in various schools in regard to implementing. However, schools are still warming up to the Act and private schools, to this clause in particular. “Since this is the first year, these are teething problems and the scene will get clearer in the coming years,” a school head observed.

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