Application forms issued from May 3-9 for 25% quota seats

S. Rajesh, an office assistant, looked pleased as he sat on his bike outside a matriculation school in the city on Saturday evening.

He was excitedly calling relatives to inform them that his son had made it to a reputed matriculation school under the 25 per cent reservation mandated by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.

Was he asked to shoulder the fee and cost of book and uniforms? He was not sure.

“They have asked me to come next week. Even if I am asked to pay the fee, my boss has offered to pay it entirely because I cannot afford it. No child in the TNHB quarters where I live has been admitted to a big school before,” he said.

Applications for admission under RTE were issued from May 3-9 in the city. However, on Saturday, when private, unaided, non-minority schools were supposed to declare results of children admitted under the RTE quota, several were closed with no indication of when results would be announced or how many seats were reserved under the quota.

Some schools said response from parents had been negligible. But parents said, in the absence of a formal redressal mechanism, they were left to fend for themselves.

Sarita, a housewife, said her child’s application was allegedly rejected by a school in north Chennai because it came in two days late.

“When I got the application form on Thursday, they asked to submit it along with the required documents by Monday. But, when I went on Saturday, they told me May 9 was the last day for submission,” she said. Sarita’s husband works as a load man in a company.

Her neighbour Mahalakshmi said her daughter’s admission in the same school had been confirmed. “I don’t have to pay the fees, but I have been asked to pay for the books, uniforms and stationery,” she said.

Both women said they did not know of the RTE provision in the neighbourhood until some activists organised an awareness drive in their neighbourhood.

P. Krishnamoorthy of Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory said they were closely monitoring three schools in north Chennai with the help of activists from the Slum Children Sports, Talent, Education Development Dociety. “None of the schools exhibited the results on Saturday,” he said.

Elsewhere in the city too, the story was no different. Janaki’s granddaughter was denied admission in a matriculation school for submitting the forms late. “The school asked us to come next week. We ran around for the community certificate and other documents, and now they tell us we are late,” she said.

A school in Kotturpuram which filled its quota of 22 seats and put up the results on the notice board by 5 p.m. said it had accepted 22 applications and rejected six — five on the grounds that the children stayed beyond 1 km of the school, and one because the application came in late.

The principal of a matriculation school in Anna Nagar, which had 75 vacant seats, said only one person had approached them. “The applicant is yet to get back to us with documents and we have decided to wait,” the principal said.

“The government must do more to create awareness. Of the seven days when applications were to be issued, two days fell on a weekend and on May 9, the last day to issue forms, schools were busy with the class XII results. Time must be extended,” said A. Narayanan, convenor, Forum for Right to Education.

(Names of parents changed on request.)

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