The new school session may have begun 10 days ago for most students, but for seven out of 10 children studying under the economically weaker sections (EWS) category in the city’s many private schools, studying in a new class has become impossible without any books or uniform.
Delhi’s Right to Education rules require schools to provide free books and uniforms to children belonging to the EWS category, but schools say they are “under no obligation” to provide them books and uniform.
There are 68,951 EWS students in Delhi and, according to an affidavit submitted by the directorate of education in the High Court, 51,000 of them are left without books and uniform.
“School authorities have told us to get books and uniform on our own and that the school was under no obligation to provide us anything. The total cost of books for both my children comes to around Rs 9,000. I cannot afford to pay so much, so my children are staying at home till the time I can save the amount,” Rakesh, whose son and daughter are enrolled in a popular school in Rohini, told Newsline.
Quoting Section 3(2) of the RTE Act, the Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that barriers, including financial ones, which prevented children from getting quality education should be removed. Section 8(1) of the Delhi Right to Education Act also states that entitlements — including books and uniform and writing material — have to be provided by schools.
Noting that it was “wholly unacceptable” on the government’s part for nearly 51,000 children to go without books and uniform, the High Court had said last year that “it was the duty of the government as well as schools to ensure that free textbooks are provided to children”.
But with the entitlement amount per child that is given by the government being too low to meet all costs, schools say they are not under any obligation to give out anything.
“The government pays a little more than Rs 600 for each child’s books and uniform. The amount is hardly enough to compensate us. We can’t be expected to pay lakhs of rupees from our own pockets,” R C Jain, president, Delhi State Public Schools’ Management Association, said. The government gives Rs 1,290 per child per month to private schools in all.
The High Court had agreed to admit the issue of how much entitlement the government should pay. It had also asked the government “to take action with regards to supplying free books and uniforms without awaiting further orders”.
Despite clear provisions in the RTE Act, Delhi RTE rules and orders from the Supreme Court and the High Court, it is unfortunate that poor children are still being deprived,” Khagesh Jha, advocate Justice for All, said.