For the third time since 2015, the Directorate of Education (DoE) has issued an order asking playschools built on land allotted by the government at concessional rates to reserve 25% seats in their institutions for children from economically weaker sections. But there’s a catch: The government does not know how many such schools exist or where they are.
In the latest order dated January 18 and addressed to “chairpersons/presidents of all societies/trusts running nursery/pre-primary/ playschools/ creches”, the DoE has asked schools to fill a pro forma with the name of the school and society, the address, and contact of the society chairperson.
Long court fight ensured seats for economically weak
Delhi was among the first cities in the country to implement EWS reservation in schools — before the Right to Education Act was notified. This happened because at the time of allotting land to these institutions, DDA had made it mandatory that a percentage of students from the EWS category be admitted, in return for getting land on concessional rates. But activists and parents were forced to go to court to get their rights as schools ignored the condition for many years.
It also asks schools for crucial information which is missing, such as details of the number of children given admission between 2016 and 2018, as well as the number of EWS applicants who were admitted.
Education director Sanjay Goel admitted that information about these schools is scarce.
“This land was allotted by the Delhi Development Authority without consulting the government. The condition in lease documents that they will have to reserve seats for those from EWS families was also introduced by them. Since the directorate is responsible for educational institutions, we issued the notification for parents’ welfare after the Delhi High Court ruled that these schools and education trusts will have to fulfil their lease requirements. Our officials have some historical knowledge about where some of these schools are located and are sending them the notice. We are also conducting a survey to pinpoint the location of each of these schools/institutions. It is a challenge for sure,” he said.
The matter has not moved much since lawyer and activist Khagesh Jha filed an RTI in 2016 on the issue and learnt that the government does not have a comprehensive list of these schools or how applicants can approach them.
According to sources, in many cases, despite land being allotted for schools, shopping centres, residential colonies and commercial establishments had come up on the land illegally.
A DDA official, on condition of anonymity, said that while they can provide a list of addresses where land was allotted, checking if playschools were admitting EWS applicants was beyond their jurisdiction.
The government started centralised EWS applications for those applying to schools, in classes from nursery and above, to make sure that as many children as possible are given a chance to apply and no one is turned back by the school.