Over 82,000 students, from classes 1 to 12, study in 699 unrecognised schools across the state, reveals a survey by the District Information System for Education (DISE).
This is in spite of a state government move in 2013 to regularise schools found eligible after scrutiny. Mumbai district alone accounts for 24,155 students in 110 of these 699 schools.
Section 18 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2009 mandates that all private schools should obtain recognition. It stipulates a penalty of Rs1 lakh on managements that run such schools. Not even one of the 699 illegal schools in the state has, however, been penalised under this clause. In 2012, the state government had published an advertisement in newspapers appealing parents not to send their children to such unauthorised secondary schools in the state.
Later, in 2013, the state government decided to regularise these schools to help students. According to an official, the Directorate of Primary Education had asked the managements of these illegal schools to officially apply for recognition under the Maharashtra Self-financed Schools (Establishment and Regulation) Act, 2012, which came into effect on January 4, 2013. “The eligible schools will be recognised after scrutinising applications. The process is yet to begin as we have to conduct an inspection of these schools first,” said Mahavir Mane, director of primary education, Maharashtra.
Activists alleged a nexus between politicians, officials and the education mafia. “Without political support, no one can run such illegal schools. The numbers show the failure of the school education department, which apparently lacks a proper monitoring system,” says Milind Kamble, a social activist.
Thane, Raigad and Pune are some of the districts that have a large number of students in illegal schools.