AT Least 204 private primary schools under the jurisdiction of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are unauthorised, revealed an RTI query. The education department of the BMC in its reply has also revealed that it has issued notices to these schools asking them to shell out Rs one lakh towards fine.
Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, every school must comply with the regulations on the basis of fulfilling 10 infrastructure norms. After the RTE Act was implemented on April 1, 2010, a new rule mandated all private schools to apply for fresh recognition from the education department every three years. This was done to keep a check on whether schools are following RTE norms under parameters like good infrastructure, toilets, water etc, including implementation of a 25 per cent quota for underprivileged children.
Schools failed to submit their compliance report and renew their approvals/ recognition based on that, hence were declared illegal. In July 2013, of the 1,702 schools in the city, 1,600 were not given the approvals on the grounds that they did not meet the necessary norms. Following the rejection by the municipal corporation, principals said they had reapplied in August 2013 after fulfilling the requirements.
“After we complied with the required norms, we informed the education department to conduct necessary checks and issue the approvals. While approvals for many schools were sanctioned, they are yet to act on it for many schools,” said Prashant Redij, convenor and spokesperson of Maharashtra State Secondary and Higher Secondary School Principals’ Association.
Redij said the BMC education department and the state government were being unfair to the schools imparting education to poor and underpriviledged students. “ These schools were approved decades ago under previous school norms. Suddenly, they changed the rule and now expect them to implement it immediately. The ten norms under RTE includes major infrastructural changes which is not possible as schools are located around slum areas and face space constraint. Besides, in many cases BMC does not get sanction to carry out necessary construction,” added Redij.
A Patil, principal of a private primary school in Goregaon, said, “They have not even made a visit to the schools to check the status, at least not in my area. Except for a playground and a proper compound wall, we comply with all other norms. Still, our approval has been pending since 2013.”
Under the RTE Act 2009, these schools will have to pay Rs 1 lakh as fine for non-compliance under Section 18 (5) of the Act and if the schools still continue to operate they will have to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 per day. The BMC education department claims to have already issued notice to these schools, but sources said no fine had been collected yet from any of them.
The RTI plea filed by activist Anil Galgali has revealed that M (East) ward — Govandi, Deonar, Chembur — tops the list with 36 unauthorised schools. This is followed by L ward (Kurla, Sakinaka) with 30 illegal schools. P-North ward has 20, N ward and M east ward have 12 each, F-North, K-East, R-Central and R-North wards have 10 each, R- South and S ward have nine each, P-South and G-North wards have eight illegal schools each, E and K-West wards have five each, B ward has three illegal schools, T ward and F south have two illegal schools each, A ward, H east ward and D ward has one illegal school each.
“Even though there is a rule of penalising such unauthoirised schools by levying a fine of Rs 1,00,000. There seems to be no clarity under which head will the BMC education department collect this fine. Besides the civic body is yet to collect the fine. Apart from this BMC should also initiate criminal proceedings against these schools as these schools make so much profit that paying fine is not a big deal for them.”