Admitted to schools in Class I after the Right to Education (RTE) Act was implemented in 2011 in Delhi, hundreds of students admitted under the Economically Weaker Section category, who have now cleared Class VIII, are staring at an uncertain future.
While three schools have already sent notices to parents telling them to start paying fee from the current academic session, sources say many others are mulling similar action. The reason: EWS admissions under RTE, wherein parents don’t have to pay fee or buy books or uniform, are valid only between Classes I and VIII.
While Air Force Bal Bharti had asked parents to make “suitable arrangements” for their children in case they could not pay fee, parents alleged that the administration at St Lawrence Convent, Geeta Colony, asked them to either pay fee or pull their children out of school in Class IX.
The problem will only get worse in the coming two years, since in 2011, thousands of children were admitted in nursery and kindergarten under RTE provisions. These children will reach Class IX in the next two years. A much smaller number was admitted in Class I since for most private schools in Delhi, the entry level (where RTE is applicable) is nursery.
While several complaints regarding the matter have been made to the Delhi government’s education department, it has not come up with a solution so far.
“We are studying the matter,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told The Indian Express.
Sources, however, said that if the Delhi government tells schools to provisionally extend the EWS exemption till Class XII, it will incur a huge financial burden. The government pays schools a set amount for fee reimbursement as well as books and uniform per child each year. For this, schools have to submit bills and proofs of the expenditure incurred.
“The allocation for EWS reimbursements has gone from Rs 23 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 80 crore in 2018-19. Extending it further will put more pressure on the government and will affect the allocation made for betterment of government schools. It is a tough choice,” said a senior official who did not wish to be named.
Lawyer and activist Ashok Aggarwal, who has filed several cases in courts over implementation of RTE, said the Delhi government was empowered to bring in a legislation to stop children from being forced to pay fee or drop out.
“The Delhi government can save thousands of EWS students from being removed this year if it passes a Bill extending EWS exemption beyond Class VIII by convening a special assembly session. Education falls in
the Concurrent List of the Constitution and, therefore, it is within jurisdiction of the Delhi government to pass the required legislation,” he said. According to sources in the Directorate of Education, several states have written to the HRD Ministry raising similar concerns since the RTE Act has been implemented in over 20 states and UTs.