As many as 13 HIV-affected children have applied for admissions in unaided schools of the state under Right to Education (RTE) Act this year. The number was recorded after the online submission of applications closed on Wednesday. According to RTE, private schools need to reserve 25 per cent seats for the children belonging to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and disadvantaged groups. This is, however, for the first time in Gujarat since the inclusion of ‘HIV-infected children’ category in disadvantaged groups in 2013-14, that the private schools have received applications under the section.
As per the figures of the state education department, over 99,600 seats are reserved under 10 different categories of RTE in private schools across the state. From 2013-14 to to 2016-17, 87,495 children took admissions but none of them were under the ‘HIV-affected’ category.
This was barring a single case of Ahmedabad where a child was exempted from paying fees by his private school in 2015 after a local non-government organisation intervened citing this rule. The child, however, did not take admission under the category and the exemption was done only in January and not at the beginning of any academic session. So, the department is not considering this as a special case, claims authorities.
Education secretary Sunaina Tomar said all these years admissions were done manually, which led to many manipulations. “Often the ‘HIV-affected children’ category was left out for admissions. To overcome this, we have launched a web portal this time where everything, right from the submission of applications to admissions, are being done online. This could be a reason, we received some applications under the disadvantaged group.”
Tomar added lack of awareness among parents was another reason that they never got applications under the category. “Several meetings were held with state social welfare and health departments besides the organisations, which work with HIV positive patients like state AIDS Control Society.”
“All the district primary education officers and district education officers were briefed about the 10 reserved categories and were asked to spread awareness among people with the help of the concerned organisations,” she said.
This year the education department has received 1,21,879 applications under various categories with the coordinated efforts of various departments,” said a senior education department official, who is monitoring the forms.
The department has also acted on the complaints that big schools were ‘conveniently’ exempted from the 25 per cent reservation rule. The state has directed all the private schools to admit the eligible children under reserved categories, irrespective of the fee structures.
Apart from EWS, the disadvantaged group has been divided into nine categories – (in order of preference) orphans, child in need of care and protection, from child care institutes, child labourer/migrants, mentally challenged/those affected from cerebral palsy, with special needs, HIV patients, SC/ST and SEBC/OBC and BPL.
The state government has also modified the rules on March 4, which stipulates that after admissions under reserved category in unaided schools, if seats remain vacant, children belonging to general category with a family income below Rs 68,000 per annum in urban areas and Rs 47,000 in rural areas will also be eligible.