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Rs 5 crore. That’s the total loss in fees that the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, which runs two schools in the city, has claimed to have incurred since the introduction of the mandatory 25 per cent quota admission for children of the economically weaker sections (EWS) under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
Like Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, a number of schools in the state have been complaining that the reimbursement from the government, in lieu of the fees waived for the EWS children, had not been coming, as a result of which it had become difficult for them to continue operations. School management associations across the state have now decided not to give EWS quota admissions from next academic year, if their pending dues are not immediately released by the government.
“I have a total of 600 seats, adding both my schools and their shifts together. We give admission to 150 RTE students every year since 2013. However, we haven’t received a single penny in terms of reimbursement from the government towards these admissions, which means we are bearing the entire cost for their education. Imagine taking away 25 per cent of your total income and then asking you to survive. We are a school, not a profit-making business and our fees are anyway not that high,” Nandkumar Kakirde, secretary of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, said.
Bharat Bhendarge, a school owner from Aurangabad who had sat on a protest outside the office of the Director of Education in Pune about a fortnight ago, said that in the last five years, his school had lost Rs 37.5 lakh because of non-collection of fees from the 25 per cent reserved seats for RTE admissions. “I have 50 seats under RTE. Most of the time they are not filled, but the government does not allow us to take admissions on the vacant seats. They can be wasted, but not filled through regular admissions. Moreover, the government has not paid us a single paisa till date. We are budget schools with bare minimum working margin. Survival has become an issue,” he claimed.
Two weeks ago, the Independent English Schools Association (IESA) had organised a one-day strike, primarily to demand the payment of dues. “The Director of Education did not even meet us at that time. We had given it in writing that we will not take EWS quota admissions from next academic year if our dues are not cleared by September 30. It seems they have taken the threat lightly as no reply has come from them and neither has anyone even called us for a dialogue. So now, we have decided to start a public awareness campaign and involve parents and even activists to show why schools cannot take EWS quota admissions and demand reimbursements. However, one thing is clear. If dues are not paid, we are not going to enrol for the RTE process,” said Jagrutti Dharmadhikari, president of IESA.
Many school organisations in Maharashtra are taking the same stand. Sanjayrao Tayade Patil, member of the Maharashtra English School Trustees Association (MESTA), claimed that the government owed schools over Rs 300 crore as only Rs 104 crore had been released by it so far. “Consistently, year after year, the reimbursement amount was increased for the RTE quota students, but it remained on paper and hasn’t reached schools. Not only will we boycott RTE admissions but organise a big morcha of parents, school managements and other stakeholders to Mantralaya against this practice,” he said. These school organisations said that though they had not officially communicated their position to the government yet, they had already begun working towards it.
Bharat Malik, member of Private Unaided Schools Managements Association (PUSMA), said that the organisation was also of the view that the EWS quota admissions cannot be taken unless reimbursements are given. “We have started taking the legal opinion on the same and are in support of the stance of the other school associations,” he said.