The private schools in Punjab are still not admitting children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections, as mandated under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, an appraisal report released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for Punjab has highlighted.
As per the Appraisal Report of Annual Work Plan & Budget 2019-20, released Friday, “State (Punjab) has reported that admissions under Section 12 (1)(C) has not started. State had earlier reported that it has notified disadvantaged groups and Weaker Sections for the purpose of admission in private schools. However, State is yet to provide notification (to MHRD) in this regard”.
According to the Section 12 (1)(C) of the RTE Act, 2009 unaided private schools (described as the ones ‘not receiving any kind of grant or aid from government’ in the Act) have to reserve at least 25 per cent seats for children from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood, provide them free of cost elementary education and government has to reimburse the schools on basis of per-child expenditure.
The Punjab government, meanwhile, in its defense has said that as per the Rule 7(4) of the Punjab RTE Rules, 2011, schools have to admit such children on its own and if children from weaker or disadvantaged sections fail to get admission in government or aided schools then they can apply for admission in private schools against 25 per cent seats reserved for them.
However, the MHRD report says that the State Rule 7(4) provides that “all admissions of children belonging to the weaker section and the disadvantaged group shall be made by the school itself. If such children are unable to get admission in the schools referred to in sub-clauses (i) and (ii) of clause (n) of section 2 due to non-availability of seats or for any other reason, then their parents or guardians may apply to get admission in the schools referred to in sub-clauses (iii) and (iv) of clause (n) of section 2 against the twenty-five per cent seats reserved for them. Admission to these seats shall be made by a draw of lots.”
(Sub-clauses (i) and (ii) refer to government and aided schools while (iii) and (iv) refer to specific category and unaided schools as per RTE Act).
The disadvantaged groups include: SCs, OBCs, children affected with HIV or cancer, orphan child, war widow’s child, destitute parents’ child and weaker sections include those below income tax limit.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Krishan Kumar, secretary, school education, Punjab, said, “We have already notified that private schools have to admit children from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups. We will provide a copy of the notification to the MHRD. A review meeting regarding this report has already been held with the MHRD officials and all their concerns have been replied to.”
Out of School Children (OoSC)
The 248-page report further revealed that the Punjab had identified 5,689 out of school children (OoSC) in 2018-19 of which 4,093 were brought into mainstream education system – 1,865 through direct enrollment, 1,992 after non-residential special training (NRST), and remaining 236 being children with special needs (CWSN).
The state has also claimed opening 860 special training centres for out of school children to prepare them for mainstream schooling for which 6,803 volunteers were engaged.
RTE provides for special training for OoSC to match their competency level with the class they are enrolled in as per their age. All children mainstreamed and admitted in schools after special training have to be monitored so that they do not drop-out.
The report says that for 2019-20, the state has identified 5,172 out of school children in age group of 6-14 years of which 169 are CWSN. These have been identified after a household survey undertaken in November 2018 by teachers and volunteers and efforts were made to cover every single town, ward and village. “Special focus was given to identify vulnerable groups of children such as migrants, Scheduled Caste (SCs), Muslims, beggars, tent house or slum dwellers, those at construction sites and railway stations, brick kilns, orphans working in hotels and dhabas etc”.
The state has proposed to cover 858 children through direct enrollment while 4,145 will be given one-year special training before admission to schools.
“Districts with high incidence of drop outs are Ludhiana, Bathinda, Ferozepur, and Jalandhar. Among social groups with high incidence of Drop outs are Scheduled Caste,” says the report.