With the deadline for complying with norms having elapsed, many schools are in a limbo
Having survived a life-threatening road accident, this woman graduate decided to dedicate her life to the students. Putting her skills earned through a Diploma in Elementary Education, she set up a small primary school in the city and approached the Department of School Education for recognition.
She did not think much when her file was kept pending for years even after she had submitted all the required documents sought by the education officials at that time, as she thought it was only too typical of a government bureaucracy at work.
However, she got the shock of her life a few months ago, when the department sent her a notice threatening to close down her school as it did not meet the land norms. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act specifies a school in Corporation limits must have 33 cents and her school needed at least another 10 cents.
This was out of question as the former teacher found this would cost several lakhs and her small school having around 50 to 60 children, 10 teachers and two non-teaching staff generated an annual income of just over Rs. 1.50 lakh. Neither able to close down the school, as she had taken huge loans to build it, nor able to run it as the RTE Act specifies a fine Rs. 1 lakh for the first day a school runs without recognition and Rs. 10,000 for every day thereafter, she found herself in a quagmire with no firm solution in sight.
This school was just one of the over 2,500 facing similar problems across the State, says G. Krishnaraj, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association.
The rules and regulations introduced by the State Government and the Central Government through RTE Act had placed a huge burden on small schools. With the March 31 deadline for complying with all these norms having elapsed, many schools were in a limbo right now.
The land norms, which by far was the most vexing of all issues facing the school, was not included in the original set of 40 rules introduced in 2005 by the State Government after the Kumbakonam school tragedy and was subsequently inserted, he said.
The last academic year (2012-13) saw at least four to six meetings convened every single month by the Department of School Education on subjects ranging from RTE Act, SSA and smart cards, to government examinations. The officials insist that only the principals or correspondents must attend, which complicated matters as in small schools, the head of institution was also a teacher.
Apart from handling the administrative work of the school and taking classes, the principal must also attend these department meetings and take care of recognition/renewal process. All of this simply overwhelms the smaller schools, Mr. Krishnaraj said.
Of all the processes involved in obtaining/renewing recognition, the final step of getting Form D or the licence from the tahsildar concerned is the most arduous. For, these officials have wide responsibilities ranging from implementing welfare schemes, attending to law and order issues, dealing with elephant attacks to making arrangements for VIP visits.
“Catching hold of them and getting the final certificate is very difficult. This process was the same for both obtaining and renewing recognition,” he adds.
Another major issue facing the schools, Mr. Krishnaraj said, was the insistence of the Education Department on the schools producing the title deeds or lease agreements for the buildings in which the schools were operating.
The buildings owners who had leased out their property to the schools were mostly reluctant to provide the necessary documentation.
Further, the department was also asking the existing schools to produce the original approval certificate from the Local Planning Authority concerned.