HOPELESS IMPLEMENTATION OF RIGHT TO EDUCATION ACT IN UP
It is now the fourth year since the government of Uttar Pradesh started taking Right to Education Act 2009 seriously. Section 12(1)(c) of this Act is the most attractive feature from the point of view of parents from Disadvantaged Groups and Weaker Sections as they can get their children admitted at the entry level to even the most expensive schools for free education from Classes I to VIII. In UP 3,135 children were admitted in academic year 2015-16, 17,136 in 2016-17 and 27,662 in the year which just got over. However, there are some schools like the City Montessori School, Navyug Raidance, City International, St. Mary’s Intermediate College, Lucknow Model Public School in Lucknow, Virendra Swaroop, Chintal Public School in Kanpur, Blue Bird School, Nehru Children’s Junior High School in Aligarh which are making a mockery of the Act by not admitting any children in spite of orders from Basic Shiksha Adhikari or even the District Magistrate.
As no action is being taken against these errant schools, they’ve been emboldened to form associations which are publicly challenging the RTE Act itself in court of law and by holding rally in Ramlila Ground in Delhi demanding that it be scrapped. The excuse being given is that compensation amount of Rs. 450 per child per month is too low and arbitrary and even that is not being reimbursed in time.They abhor the government’s interference in what is a largely unregulated system of their functioning.
The private schools stand on morally very weak ground. Their fees structures are not rational either. Most of them would not be able to justify the exorbitant fees which the parents have to pay through their noses. In addition, a number of schools have found other ways of making money, for example, by making certain books, dresses, etc. compulsory to be bought from either the school itself or from chosen shops to be intimated by the school. Private education is a flourishing business with assured return.
It is the second year of online application process in UP this year. Out of 82,388 only 20,427 schools, which is less than 25%, are mapped, implying parents can’t even choose more than 75% schools when filling their children’s forms online. The second round of application process is over and only last round remains. Surprisingly some schools which admitted children last year, like R.D. Memorial Intermediate College and Siddharth Global School in Lucknow are missing from the options available on the website. The various branches of biggest school of Varanasi, Sunbeam, are not listed in any of the Wards here. Some of the Wards in Varanasi are not mentioned at all on the website which means parents cannot get the benefit of section 12(1)(c) here. It is inexplicable how the UP government is even accepting the applications without complete mapping of all schools. Trying to rush through the admission process without required preparation is reflected in the fact that only 48 out of 75 districts of UP came out with their first lottery list. Verifications of all 2597 forms were not complete in Varanasi when the first lottery was held. What is the point of this half-hearted effort?
There are problems with quality of mapping too. When Ruby Bano, resident of Raja Bazar in Chowk area of Lucknow filed an application for her son Saiyyed Altamash Ali’s admission she was alloted a school Fatima Girls’ Junior High School shown on the RTE website in her Ward but it turned out that this school was in Mahanagar Ward, nowhere in the ‘neighborhood’ of her home, a requirement of the Act. It is physically impossible for her to send her little son so far away with another baby in her lap.
There is also a question on process of lottery. When the Act says that at least 25% children have to be admitted under section 12(1)(c) why should there be a cap in any school on number of admissions? Only if the number of applicants exceeds the intake capacity of the school may the children be admitted to the nearest available options. Such a situation has not arisen yet.
Some of the students who got admissions in earlier years are not sailing smoothly. Ansh Kumar admitted two years ago in Universal Montessori School and Girls’ Intermediate College in Lucknow has been failed in Kindergarten. Last year he got 31.93% marks in Nursery but was passed as he stood fifth in class. But this time with 17.77% marks he has been expelled from the school even though Section 16 of the RTE Act forbids holding back or expelling children. In 2016-17 the parents had to pay Rs. 250-350 thrice in the name of examination fee whereas the Act is named as Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education. Physical punishment is prohibited under Section 17 of the Act but a teacher beat Ansh Kumar one day. On another day when Ansh Kumar relieved himself in the class his mother was called from home to clear his latrine. Question is whether the school would have called the mother of a fee paying child to come and do such a thing? It is clearly a case of discrimination and humiliation for the family merely because they are poor, in addition to mental harassment to child which is also prohibited under section 17.
Shakti Bal Vidyalaya in Gadhi Kanaura is run by a lawyer Anil Singh whereas lawyers are forbidden from undertaking any other commercial activity. The lawyer manager has charged thousands of rupees from parents to get the date of birth, caste, income certificates made which are supporting documents required to fill the application form for admission under section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act. He is also demanding sums ranging from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 2,500 for making the marksheets of last year available. The manager also says that parents should share a part of the Rs. 5,000 which they are getting from the government for buying books and unifrom for their children.
Blooming Flower Junior High School is similarly demanding Rs. 200 for each of the two children Muskan and Rehan of Mohammed Ashique who are in classes KG and I, respectively, for making the mark-sheets available. After a demonstration outside the school it is now not insisting on the payment but not releasing the mark-sheet either.
Although not admitted under section 12(1)(c), three students Manish, Sanjay and Kamal, all belonging to Valmiki community, who were studying in a parallel stream by the name of ‘Navsrijan’ of the prestigious Seth M.R. Jaipuria School of Lucknow were expelled after being enrolled there for close to 7 years as the school thinks they cannot cope with English medium and must move to a Hindi medium school. This violates the provision of the Act forbidding expulsion from school before class VIII. It would not be out of place to mention that the Sanskrit loving Bhartiya Janata Party government has decided to create 5,000 English medium schools in the state justifying it on the basis of demand for such schools.
Lord Meher School admitted Shivanshu and Shubham Sharma under section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act last year but has discontinued their education from this year, again violating section 16 of the Act.
In the face of violations of such serious nature one would have expected the officials, government or the courts to intervene but unfortunately no action is being taken. The officials make an excuse that there is no punitive clause in the RTE Act. Combined with the tyrannical behavior and assault of private schools the Act has been virtually held to ransom with no authority willing to own it.
(Note: With inputs from RTE activists Mahesh in Kanpur, Aman Agarwal in Aligarh and Praveen Srivastava, Shraddha Mishra, Saleem Khan and Ravindra in Lucknow.)
By Sandeep Pandey
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