The Right to Education (RTE) Act may address a whole range of issues, including school infrastructure, quality of teachers and teacher pupil ratio, but the spotlight continues to be on the clause on 25 per cent reservation of seats. The RTE Act help desk in Chennai (044 - 28278742) is receiving at least 10 to 15 calls every day, and most of them are to do with the reservation in schools.
“My son is in class III. Can I admit him to a neighbourhood school as per the RTE Act?”; “Do I qualify for reimbursement?”; “Does the quota apply for kindergarten, too?” — queries such as these arrive repeatedly, said those manning the desk. While schools are now fairly clear about how to go about implementing the Act, parents seem to want more clarity on the Act.
A DTERT intiative
According to a senior official of the Directorate of Teacher Education Research and Training (DTERT), while many callers in the last two months have been seeking various clarifications, the calls are now increasingly from parents, and many are about admissions under the 25 per cent reservation. “Most of the calls are from parents who are looking at admitting their children to CBSE schools. State Board admissions will begin only in June, but CBSE schools have begun the process,” he said.
As per the Act and Tamil Nadu's guidelines to implement it, unaided private schools should reserve 25 per cent of their seats at entry level (kindergarten or class I, as the case may be), for children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups, who live within a radius of 1 km from the school.
To qualify as coming from ‘weaker sections', a student's parents or guardian should have an annual income lower than Rs. 2 lakh, and ‘disadvantaged groups' include SC, ST, BC and MBC children, as well as orphaned children, children with HIV/AIDS, children of transgenders, children of scavengers and children with disabilities.
The help desk, which was set up at the DTERT in February this year, seeks to provide clarifications to schools, parents and students on the implementation of the RTE Act. Two assistant professors are in-charge of the cell, and they maintain a record of all the calls received, with details of the caller and the nature of query or complaint.