The Gujarat education department has not initiated the admission process for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Earlier, rtegujarat.org, the dedicated admission portal launched by the state government last year, announced March 12, 2018 to be the date when the admissions for EWS under RTE would begin. However, it has been postponed indefinitely.
“It is expected to start within a fortnight, but nothing is confirmed yet,” a District Education Officer in Ahmedabad said. Parents accuse private schools of forcing them to submit admission fee which, they claim, will not be refunded if their child gets admission in other schools under RTE Act.
In the face of the uncertainty over RTE admissions, the parents of students in the state are rushing to secure admissions elsewhere, in private schools which they can afford, in case their ward fails to get a seat under EWS reservation quota. The parents, thus, are forced to spend more.
As the ambiguity continues over Gujarat State Self-Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act 2017, which seeks to put a cap on the fee of the self-financed schools in the state, it seems to be adversely affecting the RTE admissions. In the wake of this uncertainty, private schools have either advanced their admissions or closed them. “The delay could be due to the fee regulation Act coupled with other issues,” said Navneet Mehta, District Education Officer, Ahmedabad, admitting that his office was inundated with queries from parents over EWS admissions.
The Right to Education Resource Centre (RTERC) at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) ,which was roped in by the education department and has been assisting it in the EWS admissions, has also been receiving hundreds of calls from anxious parents on a daily basis. “Since the dedicated portal for RTE admission, run by the education department, does not specify any date for submission of forms, parents are really a worried lot. Most of them are calling the helpline to enquire if they will be refunded the admission fee in case they are allotted seats under the RTE Act since they have already taken admissions in other schools,” said one of the volunteers at the RTERC.
Last year, the admission under RTE Act, which stipulates that private schools shall reserve 25 per cent of their seats at the entry level for children belonging to disadvantaged groups, was completed in Gujarat on June 1. The deadline was extended twice due to a large number of objections received from the applicants. Out of 81,258 applications received by the state education department on its online portal, 64,872 admissions were allocated to the applicants.
“Last year, since we were not sure whether we will get admission for free under RTE Act, we took admission in another nearby private English-medium school. But when we approached the school authorities to cancel the admission and requested for refund, they simply declined. Similar pressure tactics are being used by schools this year when the conditions are more conducive for them as the admission process has been further delayed,” one of the parents from Ahmedabad, who is waiting for his daughter’s admission under the EWS reservation, said.
The “State of the Nation: RTE Section 12(1)(c) 2017” report – a collaborative effort with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), Central Square Foundation (CSF) and other organisations and published by the RTERC – reveals that the children seeking admission in private schools under the RTE Act had alerted the state government that “the admission timelines are not synced with regular admissions; the delays often force parents to pay high fees, and secure admissions otherwise”.
Further, it was stated in this report, “This problem of extended and overlapping deadlines remains an issue with the online system as well. The online system could be a means through which the application cycle for section 12(1)(c) can be completed prior to the regular admission cycle each year.”
As one of the suggestions, it had stated, “All schools should be requested to defer other admissions until the RTE 12(1)(c) admission cycle is over. Ideally, section 12(1)(c) allotment cycle should be completed by the end of April – at least a month prior to the beginning of the academic year – with May being used for admission for both, those allotted through 12(1)(c), and those securing seats through the regular means. The schools should also be prohibited from charging fees or confirming admission to any candidate, whether under 12(1)(c) or not, until the RTE 12(1)(c) admission cycle is over.”