As the Gujarat government extended the deadline for admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) Act that mandates 25 per cent reservation for children from economically and socially weaker (EWS) sections in private unaided schools to May 30, parents were a worried lot on Wednesday.
There were reports of several schools overcharging parents. Further, as the deadline approached, several applicants received the SMS on their mobile phones that the schools had not uploaded their documents and if the schools failed to upload them till May 30, their admission will stand cancelled.
To add to the parents’ woes, the online applications also had discrepancies in the school’s distance. In some cases, the Google map showed the school to be within three km from the applicants’ residences even though they were actually quite far. These instances constitute blatant violation of the RTE Act. Applicants have complained of private schools openly demanding fee in the name of “other charges” as well as school fee and even declining to admit the child under the RTE Act’s Section 12(1)(c), citing different reasons.
Khubeb Mansuri, son of Ismail Mansuri, a resident of Makarba, has been allotted Crystal International Public School in Ahmedabad. Soon after he reached the school to submit the documents and confirm admission for his son, the school sought a fee of Rs 10,000 as “activity fee”. Helpless, he wrote a complaint to the District Education Officer (DEO), citing the school’s demand. He has been told about the rule that the school cannot ask for fee under any head and has been asked to visit the school again.
Noor Jahan Malik, mother of three girls who stays in Juhapura, has been running from pillar to post for the last two-three days after Lord Shiva Primary School in Vejalpur denied admission to her eldest daughter, stating that since the school is 3 km away from the residence (the online admission application mentioned 0.45 km), the admission should be cancelled and she should seek admission to other nearby schools. After complaints to the DEO, the school gave a verbal consent to admit her daughter on May 29.
On Wednesday, the last day of the first round of admissions, Malik was still waiting for a written confirmation. “I met the school principal, trustees and all other administrative staff. They were clearly denying admission despite the online admit card from the education department of the school. They were saying the school is far for me despite my assurances that this is my problem and I have no issues with it since it is in the permissible limit under the RTE Act.
But the school was not ready to accept anything. Only after repeated complaints to the DEO, they agreed to admit my daughter, asking us not to complain to authorities. But the school has not given me any document or written confirmation regarding this,” she said.
Similar complaints in this regard have been received by the education office against some popular schools in Ahmedabad like Anand Niketan, DAV International, Saint Kabir and Ahmedabad Public School which sought transportation, food bill and other charges.
On Saturday, Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama issued a warning to private schools that they could not demand any fee from students under the RTE Act neither could they deny admissions against seats fixed under the Act. “Action as per law will be taken against all those private schools denying action under this rule. Will take an update from the DEOs regarding this though I have not received direct complaints from parents,” Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama told The Indian Express.
“The private schools cannot ask for any fee from parents under the RTE Act. Neither can the schools ask for transportation fee. The state government reimburses Rs 10,000 per child to the private schools so the students do not have to pay any fee to the school,” Chudasama had stated in the official statement released on Saturday evening.
It has also come to the knowledge of the district education office that five students were allotted seats after the completion of first round of online admission in Vatsalya International School, Khambhat in Anand district.
“The school was ready to admit but with a condition – only after we paid Rs 53,000 as the fee. After we complained to the DEO and he intervened, the school agreed to ‘adjust’ Rs 10,000 which the school gets as reimbursement from the state government but asked us to submit the remaining amount,” said Amit Kumar Patel, a farmer from Nagra village.
It is learnt that initially the school did not act nor reply even after the notice from the Taluka Primary Education Officer (TPEO) Kamlesh Solanki. Based on the written complaint from parents, the deputy District Primary Education Officer (DPEO) S V Patel of Anand district visited the school last Thursday and served a notice, giving them time of three days.
“After confirmation from the TPEO, I visited the school and served them a notice, seeking response, and seeking admission of these five students. The school gave this excuse that they did not know about this rule. But after two three days with our regular follow-up, the school admitted all these five students,” said deputy District Primary Education Officer (DPEO) S V Patel. He added that such complaints have been received this year after the Gujarat Self-Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act 2017 came into effect. In 2017-18, 942 students were admitted under the RTE Act in around 80 private schools in Anand district alone.
A similar complaint was received from another district – Rajula in Saurashtra’s Amreli district — by Inyus Selot, who runs a pan shop for a living and was seeking admission for his daughter. “The school in which my daughter got admission under the RTE Act is a day boarding school, Balkrishna Vidyapith. Now, the school is demanding Rs 21,000 as food and other charges,” said Inyus, who withdrew his application due to this reason when he did not get any satisfactory reply from the district education office or the school.
With few lessons learnt from the previous year’s fiasco, this time again, the applicants under the RTE Act’s 25 per cent categories are at the receiving end of the disparities and discrepancies in online school allotment. This year, as per the education department, a total of 1.02 lakh seats for EWS and underprivileged children across the state have been reserved across private schools in Gujarat.