The Bombay High Courts ruling Tuesday that unaided minority schools which do not get direct monetary aid from the government do not have to reserve 25 per cent seats for students from economically weaker section under the Right To Education (RTE) Act,has not gone down well with educational activists and academicians across the state. They claim that the order will encourage these schools to resort to profiteering openly,while enjoying privileges and concessions provided by the government.
Activists say that if these schools are not willing to follow government norms despite charging exorbitant fees,the government should stop providing them concessions and other benefits.
Religious and linguistic minority schools from Pune,including Saraswati Vidyalaya,St Marys School and Bishops Education Society,had moved the High Court against a zilla parishad (ZP)order staying admissions for the year 2013-14. The ZP said the schools had not adhered to provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act,which mandates that schools keep 25 per cent seats reserved for students from poorer sections of the society.The court,in an interim order,had allowed all schools across the state to proceed with the admissions,but asked them to keep 25 per cent seats vacant.
However,according to the state government,these schools received various benefits from the Central and the state,including land on lease at concessional rates as well as concessions in water,property and other taxes. The government lawyers argued that all these constituted aid.
The court,however,pointed out that these concessions cannot be considered as aid and do not put these schools in the category of aided schools. Hence they do not have to follow the 25 per cent quota rule under RTE.
Dr Vasant Kalpande,a former director of state education,said,According to rules,even though unaided minority schools enjoy concessions from the state government,it cannot interfere in their functioning. We cannot criticise the courts decision,as it is based on these rules and previous court cases. However,these schools,on humanitarian grounds,must help economically backward students.
Former secretary of Mumbai divisional board Basanti Roy said, There can be poor students among minorities too. These unaided minority schools can admit students under the minority quota. However,they do not want to do that. They enjoy all the benefits provided by the government,but always refrain from following any government rule. The state government must stop providing these concessions to these unaided minority schools who already charge exhorbitant fees.
Rekha Karnik,an educational activist and a school teacher said, This is unfair to all the schools and a huge slap on the faces of government authorities. Aided schools who are forced to follow these norms are not receiving non-salary grant for a year now. Its sad that the government has never supported them.