A delegation of representatives from the Rural Education Welfare Association (REWA) met the UT Administration Advisor Manoj Parida on Monday, in the presence of Chandigarh Education department officials to seek clarity on the status of the unrecognised schools in the city. The representatives requested the officials to relax the norms for granting recognition and then screen the 91 unrecognised schools again. The delegation appealed to the officials to grant recognition to those schools which comply with most of the major norms and have been operating in the city for decades.
“The meeting ended on a positive note and the advisor ordered that the schools be screened again for granting recognition. Thus, the schools which comply with most of the norms will be granted conditional recognition. Others, who do not comply with a few minor norms will be given time to fulfill these requirements before asking for recognition,” said REWA President VB Kapil.
The UT Administration has prescribed norms to grand recognition to schools, in accordance with the Right To Education Act, which dictates rules on infrastructure, safety provisions and salary, among other criteria.
An Education department official, who was present at the meeting, said that the department will consider relaxing norms to grant recognition to a few schools. “We will look at security regulations as the primary concern while evaluating these buildings, and might consider relaxing other minor norms a little, but nothing has been concretely decided yet,” said the official. The UT advisor was contacted for comments, however, he did not respond to the calls.
At present, at least 91 schools located in the ‘abadi’ areas, which refers to the peripheral villages incorporated in the city, remain unrecognised. These schools have a total population of more than 20, 000 students who will have to drop out of the school if these institutes are shut down, as per the directives sent to the schools’ principals and heads by the Municipal Corporation in January, asking them to shut the schools. The circular stated that the unrecognised schools needed to be shut down within a period of one month as per the rules of a notification dated January 23, 2017. The notification referred to in the circular was a set of rules for the construction of infrastructure and buildings in the ‘Chandigarh Rural Inhabitations’.
However, unrecognised schools, which have been operating in the abadi areas since before 2017 claim that these rules do not apply to them as they cannot be applied retrospectively. “Maybe it applies to school buildings or constructions that have come up after 2017, but not to our school which has been here for more then 20 years now,” said Daljeet Singh, principal of Sehajjot Senior School, an unrecognised school located in Dhanas locality of Chandigarh. Indeed, the notice does state that the rules “shall come into force from the date of their publication in the official gazette”.
In Dhanas, a populous abadi locality houses many families, belonging to the economically weaker section, in rehabilitation colonies. Six private unrecognised schools also operate in the area. Besides which, there are three government schools in the locality, that already have too many students enrolled in them.
Mother of a boy studying at Sehajjot School in Dhanas, Asha said that she remains unaware of the potential closure of unrecognised schools in the city, but has worked hard to make sure that her son studies at a private school. “There are government schools here but the quality of education is not as good as the private schools. Both my husband and I are labourers, and we work hard to make sure our son studies at a private school. I do not know where will we go if the schools shut down,” she said.
“We have a total of 850 students, out of which about 80 per cent come from the EWS Colony here, which are practically slums. We try to groom them here to the best of our capabilities because they have invested their trust and resources in our school,” said Ravinder Kaur, wife of the principal of Sehajjot School. “Apart from these 850 students there are so many other private schools here. I know at least two more which have a similar strength of children, if not more. How will they accommodate thousands of these children if our schools are shut down?” adds Kaur.
Besides the students, the schools are concerned about their employees and teachers who will lose their livelihood in the event of the schools’ shut down. “We have a staff of fifteen teachers, and then other clerical staff, peons and helpers, all on our payroll. Most of them come from the same economically underprivileged backgrounds as the kids here,” said a principal of one of the unrecognised schools at Dhanas, on the condition of anonymity. “Whatever decision they make, they should at least convey it to us instead of leaving us in perpetual uncertainty about our future,” said the principal.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines