The School Education Department of Kancheepuram District has stepped up its drive against private schools that are yet to be recognised or who have not applied for renewal. It has roped in rural local bodies and sought residents' help in identifying such schools.

When the grama sabha (village councils) of 15 village panchayats of St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union was convened recently, elected representatives, including the panchayat president and residents, were asked to help staff of the School Education Department, especially those belonging to Elementary Education, to identity schools in their area that functioned without government recognition.

According to officials, they had so far identified 22 regular schools and 10 playschools in the southern suburbs of Chennai around Tambaram that were functioning without recognition, some for nearly a decade. The number was bound to be much higher the officials said, considering the mushrooming of playschools.

Stating that the drive against private schools without recognition was done every year, officials said they were intensifying it now as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act was also in force. The State's rules for the implementation of the Act made it mandatory for all schools to get recognition from the government.

Now that they had identified the unrecognised schools, they would begin the process of issuing show cause notices to all of them. Officials said that if the school managements failed to follow the necessary procedures, penal action, such as imposing a fine, sealing of the premises and even imprisonment of management staff would be initiated.

In Kancheepuram Revenue District, there are two Educational Districts – Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram. With a bulk of the private institutions centred in the southern suburbs, most of the unrecognised schools were found in this region. A final picture on the total number of schools violating the clauses of recognition and the subsequent action taken against them would emerge in a couple of weeks from now. Playschools being run for students in the nursery sections and till Class I are will be identified during the drive, officials hinted. Some of them charged sums as high as Rs. 50,000 a year as tuition fee, the officials added.