Sarita Devi visited all the private schools in her neighbourhood in January last year just to get a form for nursery admission for her daughter under the EWS category.
Shooed away by guards at the school gates, she gave up the dream to educate her daughter in a private school that has regular teachers and a good infrastructure opting, instead, to keep her daughter home for yet another year.
Ironically, there are around 2,500 seats earmarked for students from the EWS category that are still lying vacant in a number of schools across the city.
Each year, thousands of parents lose the opportunity to educate their children in a school of their choice as they are either not aware of the provisions under the RTE Act or are not given a chance to avail them.
The Department of Education has now issued a notification asking all parents who still want to get their children admitted to private schools to apply at the offices of the deputy directors of education so that the remaining seats can be utilized.
According to the Director of Education, Amit Singla, vacant seats have been posing a problem since the EWS scheme was implemented. A large number of parents run only after high profile schools while the seats in others remain vacant, he says.
Only a handful of parents, he feels, apply for neighbourhood schools that do not have a big name.
Volunteers who work at grassroots, however, believe that it is the lack of awareness and the attitude of schools that is a big reason for the seats lying vacant.
Their refusal to let parents from the EWS category to even enter the school premises to even submit the application form is the biggest problem, feel members from Pardarshita, an NGO that works in slum clusters in north and east Delhi.
A number of schools in the city have also formulated guidelines according to which only students within the three kilometre radius can get admission in a school under the EWS category.
According to Thomas Antony, member of NGO Josh that works in the resettlement colonies of Trilokpuri, not all individuals from the EWS category can download EWS application forms from websites or get them from government offices.
“These are people who are wary of anything related to the government. Expecting them to go to the office of the deputy directors and submit forms is nothing but unrealistic,” he said.