The landmark Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (RTE) Act was introduced in Maharashtra in 2010, but most schools are flouting the law that mandates reserving 25 per cent of their seats for poor children. The state education department is not helping either, say MIHIKA BASU & DIPTI SONAWALA
More than three years since the landmark Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (RTE) Act was introduced in Maharashtra in 2010, schools across Mumbai are far from achieving their targets. The most often cited reason is non-availability of students, or that the school is an unaided minority one and so does not come under the purview of the Act. But there is a clear difference of opinion between the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) and the state education department. While MSCPCR says even unaided minority schools have to reserve seats for those from Economically Weaker Section (EWS), the education department believes otherwise.
In a report submitted recently to the MSCPCR, the education officer of the western zone has stated that among the schools in the region, Jamnabai Narsee School, JVPD Scheme, Rajhans Vidyalaya, Andheri and VIBGYOR High, Goregaon, do not fall under the purview of the RTE Act and hence are exempted from filling up 25 per cent seats with students from EWS.
In April 2012, a Supreme Court order said that all schools, except unaided minority ones, will have to keep aside 25 per cent seats at entry level (pre-primary or class I) for children from socially/economically weaker sections under the RTE Act. Subsequently, the Centre made an amendment to the RTE Act, which was notified on June 19, 2012, and said that “nothing contained in this Act shall apply to madrasas, vedic pathshalas and educational institutions primarily imparting religious instruction”.
However, the commission, while giving an order in a previous case, observed that the 25 per cent quota is applicable to all schools, included unaided minority schools, and the latter are entitled to get reimbursements from the state government for this freeship scheme.
“The RTE Act 2009 was enacted in order to ensure free and compulsory education for the children between the age 6-14 years and provide an effective framework for effectuating the right of free and compulsory education recognised under the provision of Article 21A of Part III of the Indian Constitution. The provisions of Article 45 of the Constitution have been amended, making it an obligation on the part of the state to impart free and compulsory education to the children. The policy framework behind education in India is anchored in the belief that values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of just and humane society can be achieved only through provisions of inclusive education to all. Provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from the disadvantaged and the weaker sections is therefore not merely the responsibility of the schools run or supported by the government, but continued…