The boycott of RTE admissions by private school managements is beginning to show its effect with the number of vacancies available for the coming academic year recording a sharp decline. In fact, the number of school registrations for EWS quota admissions is so low that the state government had to extend the deadline for registrations from January 20 to 25, raising questions over the availability of RTE EWS quota seats for the coming academic year.
State government officials insist the extension in deadline is “routine” and there is nothing special about it but a look at the numbers proves the claims otherwise and the extension of deadline does appear like the state government coming under pressure.
School managements have been demanding that the pending dues for RTE reimbursements of previous years be cleared before fresh admissions are given. Though the state government sanctioned Rs 100 crore recently, the school managements claim the government owes them close to Rs 800 crore and they won’t give any RTE admissions till the arrears are cleared.
In Pune district, for example, where last year 15,693 vacant seats were available for EWS admissions in over 600 schools, this year the number so far is less than half. As of January 22 evening, nearly 12 days after the RTE registration process started for schools and two days beyond the initial deadline, only 325 schools had registered and the total number of RTE seats stood at 6,196. In some districts, the situation is worse as school registration numbers are in single digits. Like Solapur, where only one school has registered and total vacancies are only 12 seats, or Nanded, where five schools signed up and the entire district has 49 RTE EWS seats to offer so far. In Mumbai, the situation is bleak too where 21 schools have registered and only 421 seats available. This, despite the state government warning of dire consequences if schools do not complete the registration process for RTE admissions.
School managements, for their part, have come together to fight against what they term the government’s high-handedness. Rajendra Singh, secretary, Independent English Schools Association (IESA), said schools are aware of the government threats, including de-recognition, but they would not give in. “We have a meeting of all school associations in Mumbai where we will make further announcements,” he said.
Sharad Gosavi, deputy director (primary education), said schools have no choice but to register. “The GR issued by the state government is very clear that those schools which are eligible for EWS quota seats under RTE and were a part of the process last year will have to register themselves. The registration process is only for schools to specify their entry point, which is Class I or pre-primary, and seats. Even if they don’t register themselves, the state government will find a resolution to this situation. But under no circumstance will it be that this year’s RTE seats are lesser than last year,” he said.