In response to a notice to some elite schools across the city by the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR), which asked them to explain why they failed to fill up seats reserved for students from the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), as mandated by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, some like Jamnabai Narsee School, JVPD Scheme, Gopi Birla Memorial School, Walkeshwar, and VIBGYOR High, Goregaon, said they did not fall under the purview as they were unaided minority schools.
Administration of Jankidevi Public School, Andheri (West), said while three families had applied, letters of objection were sent to their address after scrutiny as they did not fulfill the norms because “the residence did not fall in the 1 km radius”.
Under the RTE Act, schools have to reserve 25 per cent of seats at the entry level for EWS students. Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports, which stated that out of 12,818 seats reserved for EWS students across 554 private aided and unaided schools in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), just 3,308 seats had been filled, MSCPCR has now directed these schools and education officers to file detailed action taken reports to fill such seats.
Citing the Supreme Court’s judgments, the letter submitted by Jamnabai Narsee states, “Our school is an unaided minority and is exempt from the application of the RTE Act…We request you to withdraw the March 5 notice and the inquiry be terminated against us.”
The commission, however, observed that after the April 2012 Supreme Court judgment, an amendment was made to the RTE Act and notified on June 19, 2012, which said: “Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to madrasas, vedic pathsalas and educational institutions primarily imparting religious instruction”. The commission observed that the 25 per cent quota was applicable to unaided minority schools, and they were entitled to reimbursements from the state government for the freeship scheme.
The commission also stated that in a previous order with respect to Jamnabai School, MSCPCR had ruled that “in the school, medium of instruction is English, majority of teachers and students are not Gujarati, the school is imparting secular education, the syllabus is approved by the ICSE Board and is secular in nature. Thus, the school is not in any manner promoting the interest of the minority. Therefore, this institution (Jamnabai Narsee) cannot get the benefit of Article 29(1) and 30(1) and thus, shall attract the provision of the Right to Education Act 2009 (amended in 2012).”
Arguing their stand, Activity High School said they were following the RTE Act as eight students were admitted in 2012-13. “In 2013-14, four parents approached us under the RTE, and after inquiries, did not revert,” the statement read.
Not receiving any application was another reason cited by some schools, including Adarsh Vidya Mandir. A few other schools, including Pawar Public School, Kandivali and Bhandup branches, Balmohan Vidyamandir, Dadar, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri (West), and Regina Pacis High School, Byculla, have, however, said they were following the regulations and filling up seats.