A Mumbai-based NGO working on education has written to the Prime Minister’s Office alleging violation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which mandates that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years will have a right to free and compulsory elementary education till Class VIII.
The organisation alleged that the majority of BMC-run schools in the city are yet to upgrade themselves to include Class VIII. This, the organisation claims, has forced students to either join private schools or drop out.
“The definition of primary schools was changed in 2009 after the RTE Act was introduced, to include Class VIII. The act came into effect in Maharashtra on April 2010. Today, six years since the Act came into effect, majority of BMC schools are yet to comply with the RTE Act and run classes only till standard VII, forcing many children to join private schools and many to drop out as they can’t afford to study in a private school. This needs to be addressed urgently,” said complainant Ghanshyam Sonar of Campaign Against Commercialisation of Education.
According to the data released by State Education (Primary) Department and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the total number of students enrolled in class one of BMC schools from 2003-04 to 2009-10 was 12,02,027, but number of students from the same batch when they reached Class VIII went down to 1,43,066. The data shows that around 10,58,961 (88.10%) students did not reach Class VIII.
BMC Teachers’ Union — Brihanmumbai Mahapalika Shikshak Sabha (BMSS) —general secretary Ramesh Joshi blamed the state government for the condition of civic schools.
Joshi who has moved Bombay High Court seeking upgradation of all BMC-run schools from primary and upper primary to secondary and higher secondary, said civic bodies must provide primary education whereas secondary education should be promoted by the state government.”
“There are 1,143 municipal schools, including both lower primary schools (up to Class IV) and upper primary (Class I to VII). Against this the civic body runs only 145 secondary schools (Class V to X). This situation blocks a student’s progress from the primary to the secondary section, as there are just not enough secondary schools to absorb all those who would want to complete their education,” Joshi said.
Sonar and his organisation also quote an example along with their complaint. According to an RTI reply, Sonar received around 71 students who passed out Class VII from one Ayodhya Municipal school in Chembur were advised to join a private school in 2013.
“We have demanded that a compensation be provided to these students. Three years after the RTE act was implemented the school did not have Class VIII. This means that BMC denied these 71 kids their right to free and compulsory education, hence the compensation,” Sonar said.
Director, Primary Education, Govind Nandede said: “As per RTE, primary education should be accessible within the radius of 3 kms to every child. BMC already has permission to upgrade their classrooms upto Class VIII, the only criteria added is that the new upgraded class will not receive any financial grant from the state government.”
When contacted, Mahesh Palkar, BMC education officer said his department is already working on the issue and they cannot upgrade the schools upto Class VIII and X unless schools apply for the same.
“We are aware of the fact that the NGO had approached the PMO and we are working to resolve the issue. We have received many applications this year for upgradation of schools upto Class VIII, we are awaiting the approval of education committee. Upgradation happens phasewise and thus takes time, we cannot directly start Class VIII in a school which has upto Class VII currently,” added Palkar.