Gap widens between vacant seats and admissions under RTE quota

Admissions for underprivileged students yet to begin this year

Over 5,000 seats reserved for children from socially disadvantaged and economically weaker sections under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, remained unfilled last year. There has been a wide gap between vacant seats and confirmed admissions since the RTE quota was introduced in the State five years ago. In 2018-19, of the 8,734 vacant seats, admissions were confirmed only to 3,233 seats.

“Seats tend to remain vacant as a majority of parents apply only to a few schools, which have limited number of seats. Once the 50-odd seats in these schools fill up, students whose parents fail to mark the preference for other English schools or regional language schools miss out on seats. The preferences cannot be changed to accommodate the children schools within 1 to 3 km radius,” said Mahesh Palkar, the education officer of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who is overseeing the RTE admission process in Mumbai.

K. Narayan, convenor of Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti (ASBS), said many students have been denied admission despite applying for three years in a row. On March 30, the last day for submitting admission forms under the Right to Education (RTE) quota, 11,723 applications were received for the 7,553 vacant seats (including 1,288 in non-SSC schools) in 356 schools in the Mumbai. In the State, 2,48,745 applications were received for admissions to 11,6960 vacant seats in 9,195 schools. Rahila Ansari, a parent, said, “My first child is in a Urdu medium school. My husband is a hawker and we cannot afford private education. The RTE is our only hope of giving a good education to my second child, but our hopes have been dashed owing to delay and denial.”

Another parent Mubina Sayyed said that her son wasted six months of his academic term last year waiting for the RTE results. She said, “I later put him in a BMC school in the middle of the term. I am trying to get him admission under RTE this year before he gets too old to be enrolled in Class I.”

Though the current academic year for the non-Secondary School Certificate (SSC) board schools in the State has begun, the government is yet to start admissions for the 25% RTE seats. The process to choose students by lottery is also yet to start and could be held on a single day across the State. Last year, by April, the BMC had already conducted two rounds of lottery. However, the admission process could be further delayed as a 20-member verification committee has been set up to scrutinise the applications.

New verification panel

“Last year, admissions were delayed owing to disputes between parents and schools over the veracity of the applications. This year, a verification committee has been set up to prevent such problems,” said Mr. Palkar. The ASBS has demanded that the State take strict action such as derecognising schools that fail to admit students under the RTE quota and provide them with free books and uniforms. The ASBS also demanded that the annual income criterion under the quota be raised from ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh.

Dr. Sudhir Paranjpe of the ASBS said, “Firstly, the RTE admission process is delayed, denying a full academic term to students who get into non-SSC board schools. Ideally, the process should start by December and wind up by February. Secondly, schools have been allowed to decide their own entry points to admit students under the RTE quota. They conveniently choose Class I as the entry point to let in RTE students, denying them education at the kindergarten level.”

Mr. Palkar said, “Government aid under the RTE is given to schools only from Class I, the entry level. It is unfair to ask poor parents to send their children to private unaided schools and then ask them to pay the fees for the kindergarten level.”

Schools demand funds

Last year, private unaided schools protested against the government’s delay in reimbursing the fees of students admitted under 25% RTE quota. Mr. Palkar said, “We have already given aid worth ₹2 crore. Another ₹3 crore has been sanctioned and should be disbursed soon to clear the dues up to 2017-18. The bills of 2018-19 will come up for clearance at the end of the academic term this month.”

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 4:24:23 PM |

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