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Eileen Singh, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, December 05, 2012
Giving another shock to private schools in the city, the education department on Tuesday decided that they would reimburse the fee of only 10% students admitted under the Right to Education Act (RTE). The education department decided this in the second meeting held with the private schools.

Under RTE, a school is supposed to fill 25% students from the underprivileged background in all classes. However, a decision was taken last year that 25% children need to be admitted at the entry-level only.

The schools admit 25% students from the underprivileged section and under the act the state government or the local administration is to reimburse the fee to the schools.

However, a senior official in the meeting declared that it would pay the fee for only 10% students and the rest 15% needs to be educated free of cost by the schools.

In another issue, the private schools, which were allotted land after 1996, have been asked to fill 15% students from the EWS background and teach them free of cost. "The clause itself says that we can charge a nominal fee. All these years we were teaching the students for free, but since the department is not ready to reimburse the fee, we will start charging the students," said a principal of a private school.

"We are confused as to what the department wants from the schools? They say we need to educate 15% students free of cost under our land clause and another 15% under the RTE Act. It is not remotely possible since we are here to survive and not start an ashram," said another school principal on the condition of anonymity.

The parents who are trying to apply for admission under the EWS category are also confused. "We do not earn so much so that we could pay the fee of our child in a good school. Till the time they were being given free-of-cost education, it was good, but now that the schools have decided to charge from parents it will be very difficult," said Ram Kumar, who works as a helper in a showroom in Chandigarh.

A parent, Pooja Rani, who belongs to the EWS category said, "I work as a domestic help and my boss said that now I can admit my child in a good school since we have the right to educate our child, but if they will start charging the fees, then it will not be possible."

The education department has not yet taken decision on the amount that needs to be reimbursed to these schools. The schools have this year also started their admission process, but are mulling not to take students if the department does not take a decision.

"The clause of the land allotment letter states that the schools can charge a nominal fee from the child, so we will do the same. The department seems to be confused and we do not want to harm the future of so many children. The department needs to give every order in writing to the schools and written communication is of utmost priority," said HS Mamik, president of the Independent Schools Association.