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            A number of schools like the City Montessori School, Navyug Radiance, City International School, Saint Mary Intermediate College, Virendra Swaroop Public School in Lucknow, Virendra Swaroop, Chintal Public School and Stepping Stone Public School in Kanpur are not honouring the admissions of children whose orders are issued by district authorities for free education from Classes I to VIII under section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act, 2009. Exxon Montessori School in Lucknow is discriminating against children admitted under this section inside their classrooms. Miranda Public High School and Sheelwati Ideal Public School in Lucknow are illegally charging fees from students admitted for free education.

            Parents are normally in awe of these private schools because of their exorbitant fees and arbitrary autocratic behaviour. In spite of not agreeing with the way these schools are run the parents feel helpless as they are concerned about their children’s future. The private school owners take advantage of this predicament of parents and thoroughly exploit them.

            A solution to control the behaviour of private schools is for the government to take them over and implement a common school system, which is the only model which has succeeded in achieving universalisation of primary education in any country around the world. Without strengthening the government school system there is no hope for children from poor families.

            If it may sound too radical then as an intermediate step the government can annexe only the administrative portion of the private schools. The owners may be free to run and manage the academic and co-curricular activities but the government will decide the admissions and fee structure. An officer of the government’s education department must sit in the offices of these schools. This is to ensure that law of the land is followed. Otherwise people like Jagdish Gandhi and Sudhir Halwasiya, owners, respectively, of CMS and Navyug Radiance are giving two hoots to the government and administration and making a mockery of the RTE Act.

            As the Act is for right of children to free and compulsory education, only those private schools should be allowed to function which can offer free education by raising enough resources to finance their schools. There are various kinds of models already functional.

            Shiv Nadar’s HCL Foundation is running two Vidya Gyan schools in Uttar Pradesh in Bulandshahar and Sitapur Districts which are like private Navodaya Schools. Meritorious students from rural background are selected and then the Foundation takes complete responsibility for the education, boarding and lodging of children. The parents do not have to pay a single paisa. These schools are funded by the Corporate Social Responsibility programme of HCL.

            However, the obvious question arises can only companies run private schools? A doughty man from Andhra Pradesh Purna Chandra Rao has demonstrated that even an individual can raise resources to run a private school. Moved by the plight of children on railway platform he decide to quit his clerical job in 1996 and start a residential school for such children in Kanaparthi of Nadendla Mandal of Guntur District. He sold his village property in Prakasham District for Rs. 80,000 and bought the land for school with this money. He spent his provident fund of Rs. 23,000 to buy a scooter for himself. He lives in Hyderabad with his family but moves around on his scooter everyday to collect money for his rural school. That is the full time unpaid job of Rao. His wife Jayalakshmi supports the family by working as an accountant with a construction company, SVS Projects Ltd., which is also now Rao’s third largest donor.

In 2002-03 when he was to begin the construction of his school Rao was able to raise Rs. 2.37 lakhs but today his annual collection is Rs. 1.33 crores. His donors include companies, medium and small private businesses, other private schools in Hyderabad and a host of individuals. One can imagine the goodwill he must be enjoying among his supporters to be able to raise Rs. 9 lakhs every month. He works 7 days a week all around the year putting in 18 hours per day to meet his target. Today 275, orphan and semi-orphan – with single parent – children including both boys and girls stay on the premises of the school along with 25 teachers and other staff. The education, boarding and lodging expenses of all students and staff are taken care of by the school.

            The above two examples show that it is possible to raise funds to run private schools so that it is totally free for the child according to the spirit of the Free and Compulsory Right to Education Act. In fact, if the owners will be required to raise funds separately for the school then only those will survive who are truly interested in imparting education to children. The ones which run schools as commercial enterprises will be weeded out. Education (and Health Care) are basic needs of human beings. If they are run for profit making then the poor will be left out as has been happening in our country. Evolved societies always try to reach every citizen by keeping these two things free and under government control.

            A person or entity who’ll take pains to raise funds for running of school will also ensure its quality. If the school is being run only for profit making then quality will be compromised. A commercial education programme will only inculcate mercenary values among children whereas an education programme with focus on quality will instill a sense of service among children. Thus even to fulfill the objective of establishing a humane society the private schools should be wound up.

            The UP High Court has shown a way for improving the quality of government school education – by making is compulsory for everyone involved in running of government and administration and the judiciary to send their children to government schools. Once the government schools will improve the private schools will become irrelevant. This will lead towards common school system which is our larger objective. In such a system whether the school is run by government or by a private management, the education will be free and of high quality for the children.

By Sandeep Pandey

A-893, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016

Ph: 0522 4242830, Mobile: 9415022772

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