On the one hand, the Tamil Government's School Education Department is attempting to raise awareness of the Right To Education (RTE) Act. On the other, some private schools which have commenced admissions to their kindergarten sections seem to be following their “usual practice” of demanding huge donations, thereby violating the Act.

“No private school will ever have a transparent admission process, because it is not fair in many cases,” said a dejected parent, who is running from pillar to post to get his 3-year-old daughter admitted to a school of his choice.

The RTE Act clearly states that “No school or person, shall, while admitting a child, collect any capitation fee and subject the child or his or her parents or guardian to any screening procedure.”

However, some “good private schools” that are in great demand among parents, are still insisting on capitation fee. “My friend recently paid Rs.50,000 to get his daughter an L.K.G. admission in a school in Anna Nagar,” said a parent of two boys going to the same school.

Some schools charge amounts in lakhs of rupees. A school in R.A. Puram demanded Rs.1 lakh for a kindergarten admission and another, in Adyar, demanded Rs.1.5 lakh, according to a parent. “Often, parents do not get a receipt for the payment,” said a teacher, on condition of anonymity.

While most schools say preference would be given to children of alumni, children whose siblings go to the same school and children living in close proximity to the school, not all who meet these criteria can be guaranteed admission, parents note.

Recalling her experience, a parent who admitted her son in the Pre-KG section of a school in K.K. Nagar last academic year, said: “For some schools, all that matters is money. For others, nothing but recommendation from high places works.”

Though parents know that the RTE Act safeguards the rights of the child to be admitted to a school without paying donation, many do not know where they can voice their grievances. “We cannot go to court. After all, we need that seat for our child. I am helpless because if I don't pay, there are 10 other parents who are ready to pay,” said R. Janani, a parent.

A senior official of the School Education Department said parents can approach the Department with such complaints. “They can certainly inform us about such malpractices. Such issues crop up only among elite, private schools. No government school has such complications,” he said.

The RTE Act itself mandates the constitution of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR). The Commission would not only enable grievance redress, but will also function as an autonomous body with powers to investigate into any case that deals with complaints relating to violation of the RTE Act or the rights of children.

The Tamil Nadu Government is in the final stages of setting up the Commission and an announcement on the same could be expected soon, the official said.

K. Shanmugavelayutham, Convenor of Tamilnadu Forum for Crèche and Childcare Services (TN-FORCES), “It is time that the government set up the Commission. Since many private schools have commenced their admission process, there are a lot of complaints about malpractices. The SCPCR will be a forum for parents and children to report such cases.”

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

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