While certain private schools in the city continue to defy the RTE Act and deny admission to students from economically weaker sections, the four convent schools, which are minority institutions and, therefore, not bound by the RTE Act, continue to provide education to these children without charging fees.
The minority schools whose doors are open to students from EWS are Carmel Convent School, St John’s, Sacred Heart and St Anne’s, all run by Christian missionaries.
This is in contrast to many other non-convent minority schools which deny admission to EWS students.
Then there are Vivek High School, Sector 38, and St Kabir Public School, Sector 26, which continue to defy the law even when the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutes (NCMEI) is yet to accept their claim to the minority status.
St. John’s High School, Sector 26, has been admitting students from the EWS and EDG (Economically Disadvantaged Group) since 1997.
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It currently has over 300 such children, fully integrated into the mainstream. They are spread out from the preparatory to class XII.
Kavita Das, principal of St John’s High School and spokesperson for the convent schools, said, “We have been admitting EWS and and EDG students for a very long time under our ‘Indradhanush’ programme. Every year, we take 25 to 30 students at the preparatory level, educate them separately for a year and then it is an integrated class. We have introduced a special English language programme for these kids; one cannot make out any difference between the EWS students and other students.”
Apart from one year of special education, EWS children are given extra coaching of one hour daily after the school hours. Das said all convent schools help such students in entering college and find jobs. They charge nothing from the students.
Of the 73 private schools in the city, 14 are minority institutions. These are Carmel Convent School, Sector 9; Sacred Heart Public School, Sector 26; St Anne’s Convent School, Sector 32; St Joseph School, Sector 44; St Xavier School, Sector 44; Mount Carmel School, Sector 47; St John’s High School, Sector 26; Chandigarh Baptist School and St Mary’s School, Sector 46, Little Flower, Manimajra, Shri Guru Harkrishan Model School,Sector 36; Ryan International School, Sector 49; New Public School, Sector 18, and Saupin’s, Sector 32.
Going by the law, private schools that are not classified as minority institutions are supposed to reserve 25 per cent seats for EWS sections, irrespective of whether they receive grants from the government or not. Unaided minority institutions, however, are free to take in students as they wish.
Further, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled last year that private schools are under a contractual obligation to comply with the conditions laid down for providing education to EWS students in lieu of land provided to them by the Chandigarh Administration at concessional rates. But many schools which reportedly got land on concessional rate are not admitting EWS students.
An official of the Education Department said that it was after the implementation of the RTE Act that private schools started seeking minority status just to avoid admitting EWS students. “If they are minority schools, then why don’t they have quotas for the students of their community?” asked the official.