At the legislative level, the Right of Children To Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act may have provided a sense of accomplishment to the country in making education a fundamental right of every child in the age group of 6 to 14. But at the ground level, the reality seems to be different.
Since the Act came into force, it has endured a torturous time as an admission to elite private schools for children from the ‘disadvantaged sections’ continues to remain mostly out of reach, if the experiences of several parents are anything to go by. This landmark legislation mandates private schools to keep 25 per cent of their total seats reserved for “children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups” in their locality. The student’s fee is to be reimbursed by the Government in September.
While the applications for the RTE Act quota seats were initially issued only till May 20, the State Government extended the deadline and forms were given till June 20.
G. Suresh Babu, a resident of Perianaickenpalayam, said that he submitted an application seeking LKG admission for his son in a school near his home. However, the school initially refused to accept the application stating that they were residing more than 1 km from the school but later, told him that they had already completed filling the RTE Act quota seats.
When he asked the school the details about the students admitted, he was told that it had been sent to the School Education Department. “I got the letter which the school had sent to the Department. It only states that the school had filled the RTE Act quota seats and gives no information about the students or how they qualified to come under this quota. As the public funds are going to be given to the school as reimbursement for fees of students admitted under the quota, there must be transparency in the admissions,” he said. A photocopy of the letter was provided to The Hindu .
Mr. Babu also urged the School Education Department to verify the information on students in all the schools to prevent misuse of public funds. S. Anandakumar, a resident of Karumathampatti who runs a small restaurant, was among the parents who made use of the extended deadline. He got the applications on June 8 and submitted the form on June 14 indicating a school near his locality.
However, for more than two weeks, there was no information on the status of his application even though more than a month had elapsed since the academic year began. Finally, he approached the school, which said that it had already filled up the seat under RTE Act quota. After much persuasion, he said that the Education Department officials issued a letter to him on July 5 asking the school to provide admission for his son. However, Mr. Anandakumar said that they would not confirm if the school would honour this letter.
Similarly, K. Duraisamy, a farmer near Karumpathampati, had sent his applications along with all the documents required on June 14 seeking an LKG admission for his son.
However, the school he had indicated in the application called him and questioned him as to why he had not applied directly to the school. When he replied that he cannot afford the fee and had hence sought admission under the quota, he was told that the school had completed the admissions.
He said that he was being given this information more than a month after the academic year had begun and when all schools would have completed admissions.
“There is no clarity on this subject and School Education Department officials have also not been very helpful. If I had been told there will be this many problems in getting admissions under the RTE Act quota, I would have applied for some other school earlier,” he said.
Even as a large number of parents are disappointed, there have been a few cases of successful admissions also. P. Dharman, a daily wage labourer residing in Sirumugai, near Mettupalayam, has got LKG admission for his son in a school of his choice in the RTE Act quota seats. He said that he applied during June and the school had confirmed they would provide admission.
When contacted, Chief Education Officer A. Gnanagowri told The Hindu here on Sunday that a majority of the private schools in the district had completed admissions for the RTE Act quota seats before May 14, which was the initial cut-off date specified by a Government Order.
The extension of deadline for issuing applications to the quota seats was intended for those schools that still had seats vacant. As such, she said that parents cannot demand admissions in specific schools. Education Department officials were analysing the applications received and these candidates would be admitted in schools where seats were available.