Fee reimbursement and definition of ‘neighbourhood’ schools are some issues

It was a show of strength by members of private schools at the State-level conference organised by the Karnataka State Private School Managements’ Federation (KSPSMF) in Bangalore on Saturday.

Speaking at the conference, Sudi Suresh, secretary of the federation, listed some of the ambiguities that are there in the Right to Education (RTE) Act rules framed by the State before its “hurried” implementation. “There is confusion about the fee reimbursement amount. Schools want to know why they got only Rs. 8,000 per seat (for example) while the amount the government is offering is Rs. 11, 848. They don’t even know that it is the maximum amount of reimbursement. Similarly, there is no provision to accept even voluntary donations from individuals as no form of donation is allowed,” Mr. Sudi Suresh explained.

He also added that teachers were “working in an atmosphere of fear”. “People say schools should have counsellors. How many counsellors does the Education Department have?” he asked.

Advocate Anjali Ramanna urged the schools to examine three issues: “The Supreme Court directive on the implementation of the RTE Act says that the State governments should train 50,000 teachers within 30 months from the time of notification of the Act, as well as to provide technical and infrastructural support to the schools.” She also questioned whether the requirement for the government to provide education to children between the ages of three and six (the RTE Act covers children in the age group of six to 14) can be used as an excuse by private schools to refuse admissions to students in the first standard under the 25 per cent RTE quota.

The Karnataka Federation of Independent Schools’ Management president L.R. Shivarame Gowda called for “unity” of the private school managements to “instil fear in the government”. Criticising the State government, he said: “First RTE should be applied to the government schools. Private schools are giving quality education while government schools have failed to do so.”

The conference adopted a resolution, which was submitted to the Education Department. The demands listed out are: payment of the first instalment of fee reimbursement, definition of “neighbourhood” schools, altering the Rs. 3.5 lakh per annum income limit to accommodate children from genuinely poor families under the RTE quota and elimination of the “third party” organisations who are “interfering” in the schools’ functioning.