Foreseeing a “very large financial liability”, the Gujarat Education Department is impressing upon the Centre to share the cost of admitting students from economically weaker section (EWS) and disadvantaged groups in unaided private schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act’s 25 per cent reservation rule.
This comes despite the fact that the Education Department has so far ensured admission to a total of nearly 12,900 students in private unaided schools across the state in two years against a target of 23,600 students. In its second year of implementation in the state (being introduced during academic session 2013-14), three years after the notification of Right to Education (RTE) Act in Gujarat, the 25 per cent reservation rule has failed short of achieving the targets, each year.
For the academic session 2015-16, the Education Department has fixed a target of 30,000 students. With this, the Education Department plans to increase the number each year which would add up to previous year’s number of students enrolled and are promoted to next class. The department has prepared an estimation of costs to be incurred after the first batch of students complete their primary education.
“The Education Department has roughly estimated the costs for a period of seven years which are calculated to be Rs 750 crore for 7.5 lakh students adding to total students from Class I till VIII. This will be a very huge financial liability for the state exchequer. Keeping this in mind, we are impressing upon the central government to share this cost on the lines of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme,” confirmed the Additional Chief Secretary (Education) Arvind Agrawal.
The cost sharing between centre and state under SSA scheme is at 65:35 ratio. The Gujarat education department is reimbursing Rs 10,000 per student annually to the private schools. The number of students admitted in the first year (academic session 2013-14) was 546 and 12,300 in the second academic session against a reservation of 5,300 and 18,300 seats, respectively.
Failing to achieve the target of students to be admitted under this rule during last two years, the department has, this time in order to achieve the target of 30,000 children fixed for the coming academic session, included all district labour officers, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme officers, social welfare officers to the existing admission committee of district education officers (DEOs), district primary education officers (DPEOs) followed by administrative officer (AO) or deputy DEO.
As per the rules, the scheme is applicable to children residing within 1 km of the concerned school. In case, the seats are lying vacant, children within three kilometre will be given a chance followed by residents within six km.
Reservation rule not limited to EWS
Not only reservation has been made for 25 per cent of total seats in Class I in private schools, the state government has also elaborately defined EWS and disadvantaged groups, both in order of priority. While, after BPL families, children whose parents’ annual income is Rs 36,000 and Rs 27,000 for rural and urban areas, respectively will be given first preference under EWS category. This will be followed by children with family annual income of less than Rs 2 lakh.
Similarly, not limiting itself to the EWS category, the state government has made an attempt to provide an equal chance to mainstream children from a wide section of disadvantaged groups by divided it into eight categories. These include (in order of preference) orphans, child in need of care and protection, children from child care institutes, child labours/migrated children, mentally challenged/cerebral palsy children, children with special needs, HIV patients, SC/ST and OBC.