Only 2,440 children belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS) of society have taken admission to schools by the end of the second round, despite an extension of date. The low turnout is in contrast with the large number of applications received this year for admission to the 25 percent seats earmarked for children from EWS under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
According to data available on the official website, of the 9,426 applications received for RTE admissions, only 25 percent have been successful in securing admission. Only 447 children confirmed their admissions of a total of 1,661 allotted seats in the second round of allotment on March 25. The low turnout is despite the fact that last date for admission was extended from April 1 to 5.
For the first time in the seven years of conducting RTE admissions, the number of applications exceeded the number of available seats this year. However, the turnout has been paltry. Officials from the education department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Commission (BMC), which is conducting the admission process on behalf of the government, said that the low turnout was because parents were only keen on admission of their wards to a few sought-after schools.
Meanwhile, a rule introduced this year by the government led to more than 26 percent of the applicants being rendered disqualified. The new rule says that those applicants who were allotted seats but did not confirm their admissions will be disqualified. By this rule, around 2,490 applicants are now out of the race for seats.
Now, a little over 6,500 seats are available for 4,496 eligible applicants in the third round, which will be held early next week according to Mahesh Palkar, education officer of BMC.
However, if the turnout is low, thousands of seats may remain vacant for years. “The government this year has said that any vacant RTE seat will continue to remain vacant till class VIII after which the school may fill them with open category students. This was to discourage schools from sending RTE applicants away and later filling the seat with open category students,” said RTE activist Sudhir Paranjape.
Paranjape blamed the lottery model for the failure of implementation of the RTE Act. “The lottery model is a fraud. It does not guarantee education to all applicants, contrary to the mandate of the Act,” he said, adding that the government lacked the political will to implement the Act better.
Paranjape suggested that the education officials map the number of seats available to the number of applications received, based on the location and requirement of the applicant.” “The mapping can be done for all applicants who are left at the end of the lottery, too. These children can then be allotted to the remaining seats as many seats go vacant in the RTE quota every year,” said Paranjape who will present a sample mapping to the BMC education department soon. Last year, around 7,000 seats in primary and pre-primary sections were vacant after four rounds of lotteries.
While last year several schools had returned applicants on the pretext of problems in their applications or certificates, this year the government has set strict guidelines. “This year the schools are not supposed to verify documents. If a seat is allotted to a student, they are bound to admit the child,” said BB Chavan, deputy director of education.